Microscope slides

< 1 of 1 > Back

used in Edinburgh

Postcard of Microscope slides.
© National Museums Scotland

Microscope slides

These glass slides and mineral specimens were used in Edinburgh around 1835. The microscopical investigation of minerals was hampered by the nature of the specimens, but during the 1820s it was discovered that if mineral sections were ground into thin slices of less than a millimetre's thickness, they became translucent and could be glued to glass slides and viewed through a microscope. This technique was apparently first used in Edinburgh and discussed in a volume about the microscopic structure of fossil plants, written by Henry Witham (1779-1844), and dedicated to his friend William Nicol (c. 1771-1851).

The upper two slides in the photograph were bought from William Nicol in 1836 and described by him as 'Fossil Wood on glass from Newcastle'. The lower three came from the collection of J.D. Forbes, professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. They are slides prepared for the microscope of parts of the fossil tree discovered at Craigleith Quarry outside Edinburgh in 1829, and dated 1831 and 1833.

The Craigleith fossil tree, parts of which can still be seen at the Royal Botanic garden, Edinburgh, was investigated by William Nicol, a lecturer in the natural sciences who had retired to Edinburgh. His findings were published in 1830 by his friend and patron, Henry Witham. The friends subsequently disputed the priority of this invention with some acrimony, Nicol claiming that he had improved a technique used by an Edinburgh lapidary named George Sanderson.

Record details

To search on related items, click any linked text below.

Online ID: 000-180-000-928-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  
Date: Around 1835
  • A.D. Morrison-Low. Edinburgh Portraits: William Nicol, FRSE c.1771-1851: Lecturer, Scientist and Collector. Book of the Od Edinburgh Club new series 2 (1992), pp 123-131. 
  • Henry Witham. Observations on Fossil Vegetables, accompanied by Representations of their Internal Structure as seen through the Microscope. Edinburgh, 1831. 
  • William Nicol. Observations on the Structure of Recent and Fossil Coniferae. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 16 (1834), pp 137-158. 
Related Records:
< 1 of 1 > Back
Powered by Scran