Microscope, made by Smith & Beck

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in London

Postcard of Microscope, made by Smith & Beck.
© National Museums Scotland

Microscope, made by Smith & Beck

This achromatic monocular compound 'Students Microscope' was made by the firm Smith & Beck in London in 1850. It is signed on the body tube, and numbered 324. It has an iron reverse claw foot, and comes with one objective and one eyepiece.

By 1840, three new instrument makers, exclusively manufacturing microscopes, had emerged in London, who had learned how to make successful achromatic instruments. Through J.J. Lister's optical theory and their own remarkable skill, their microscopes were the best available optically. One of these, James Smith (d. 1870), seems to have worked exclusively for the trade until 1839, when he was assisted in business by Lister, with whose nephew Richard Beck he formed a partnership in 1847.

Besides their expensive Lister-limb design, Smith & Beck produced microscopes at about six guineas (£6-30) for the growing student market. These were pitched at a relatively low price in competition with imported Continental microscopes, and were listed in Smith & Beck's catalogues for over thirty years. This particular instrument was sold to a 'Mr Dillwyn' in January 1850.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-952-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1979.63
Date: 1850
Material: Brass / iron. Inscription: Smith & Beck, 6 Coleman St. London. 324
Dimensions: 380 mm H
What: Microscope, achromatic compound
Who: Arthur Frank Microscope Collection
Mr. Dillwyn (Purchaser)
Smith and Beck, 6 Coleman Street, London (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Achromatic compound 'Students' microscopein brass, with 1 objective and 1 eyepiece, signed by Smith and Beck of London, 1850, and sold to Mr. Dillwyn in January 1850
  • For Smith: see Turner, G. L'E. Hugh Powell, James Smith and Andrew Ross: Makers of Microscopes. In: J. North (ed.), Mid-Nineteenth Century Scientists (Oxford, 1969), pp 104-138. 
  • Nuttall, R.H. (1979): "Microscopes from the Frank Collection 1800 - 1860" 
  • Nuttall, R.H. James Smith, and Smith and Beck; 1839-1852 Part I: The Microscopes. Microscopy 36 (1989), pp 288-300, 317. 
  • Nuttall, R.H. Microscopes from the Frank Collection 1800-1860. Jersey, 1979, p 44. 
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