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Early Aquatic Microscope, ~1750
The 'Aquatic microscope' is of the type originally suggested by the Swiss naturalist Abraham Trembley (1710-1784) for his seminal study of the hydra, later to be materialized by John Cuff (1708?-1772?), microscope maker, for John Ellis (1707-1776), an Irish naturalist. Ellis was highly regarded by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), who called him one of the brightest stars of natural history. Ellis was elected FRS in 1754. In 1755 he published his work on corals, translated into French the following year, which won him an international reputation. Ellis wanted a microscope of high portability which made it easy to follow the activity of the hydra and other small water organisms held on a watch glass on a microscope stage. The first model was made by Cuff for Ellis in 1752. The design became popular, and microscopes in various forms of this design were made in England and Europe. Later improvements to this design eventually included rack and pinion focusing instead of the overly simple push-fit focussing of the first models (see here). Later, Raspail changed the forward and backward motion of the arm carrying the eyepiece to a fine motion driven by a screw mechanism (see here). In 1832 Charles Darwin took with him an advanced form of the Aquatic microscope, made by Bancks of London (also represented in this collection), on his seminal voyage on board HMS Beagle.
This early form of the aquatic microscope is mounted on the ray skin-coated wooden case with a center mount for the pillar, has Lieberkuhn lenses of different magnifications that can be screwed to the bar above the circular stage with specimen holder and convex mirror below.
This early form of the aquatic microscope is mounted on the ray skin-coated wooden case with a center mount for the pillar, has Lieberkuhn lenses of different magnifications that can be screwed to the bar above the circular stage with a specimen holder and convex mirror below. The inner redlining of the case is typical of microscope makers Benjamin Martin or John Cuff.
Early Aquatic Microscope by Barthelon a Marseille, France, ~1750
During the 18th century, several scientific instruments were invented and became successful, such as the 'Aquatic microscope', which was developed by John Cuff and other makers in London. It was soon replicated by other leading microscope manufacturers in continental Europe. These replicas often underwent changes and improvements from the copying machines, which were not bound by the standards that customers often imposed on English optical and other instrument manufacturers.
This is an early replica of the 'Aquatic microscope', which was designed by John Cuff for John Ellis in London in the mid-18th century. The improvements made in this model include a thinner box, a more comfortable internal division of the components, better connection of the stage tweezers, and decorative decoration of the stage. However, the microscope is generally faithful to Cuff's earliest design. In this design, the rod that supports the lens carrier goes into a tube attached to the pole to which the mirror, stage, and lens system connect and does not enter a hole in the center.
The inscription on the central stand of the microscope reads "BARTHELON · A · MARSEILLE". However, this name is unknown to us as neither the manufacturers nor the retailers of that time in France had such a name. It is possible that this name belongs to the owner of the microscope, although it was not common for the owner to sign their device in the 18th century. However, in this collection this practice is represented also by an earlier compound microscope, clearly of Italian make but signed by a French owner from Rouen.