Microscope (2 of 2)

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probably made in London

Postcard of Microscope (2 of 2).
© National Museums Scotland

Microscope (2 of 2)

This 'variable microscope', made in silver (pictured here in its fitted case) was made around 1770, probably by George Adams, senior (1704-1773), a scientific instrument maker based in London. Adams held various appointments, including that of Mathematical Instrument Maker to the King by 1760. It was designed by John Hill (1717-1792), who illustrated it in his 1770 book, The Construction of Timber. Its idiosyncratic mounting may have originated in an idea of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, who was Hill's patron.

The main arm of the stand is engraved 'C W Dixey/ Optician to the Queen/ New Bond Street/ LONDON'. Dixey probably refurbished the instrument and replaced the name of Adams with his own, and replaced the box. The accessories include a set of seven numbered objectives, six liberkuhns, forceps, a set of four micrometer glasses, a simple microscope objective arm, frog plate, sub-stage micrometer slit, additional sprung stage, specimen needle with rack and pinion micrometer adjustment, and a set of six coloured and plain glass slides.

The 'variable' microscope was made by Adams from 1770, but after his death in 1773 the model appears to have been dropped by his son; few examples survive. The silver has been analysed, and shows that it is 'probably middle to late eighteenth century'. It may well have 'escaped' from the Royal Collection, as a contemporary diary for 12 December 1845 states that '[James] Smith [the specialist microscope maker] exhibited a microscope at [the] Microscopical [Society of London] modernised for the Queen. It was of silver and at one time cost £900.'

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-002-269-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1987.344
Date: Around 1770
c. 1770
What: Microscope, variable
Who: C.W. Dixey
G. Adams, London (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Variable microscope attributed to G. Adams of London about 1770
  • George Adams, Micrographia Illustrata: or the Microscope explained, ... 4th edition, London, 1771, frontispiece. 
  • John Hill, The Construction of Timber, London, 1770.  
  • John Quekett, Diary, Royal College of Surgeons, London, 42/C.52 Sunday Times, 15 November 1987. 
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