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Early Achromatic Microscopes by Charles Louis Chevalier, 1804-1859

A complete and exhaustive historical overview of the Chevalier dynasty and the microscopes they produced appears on Brian Stevenson's website. Louis Vincent Chevalier was the pioneer of the achromatic microscope. Starting with the first “Selligue”-type microscope released around 1824, Chevalier developed a series of achromatic microscopes two of which are represented in this collection. In his review before the Royal Society in 1830, Joseph Jackson Lister noted that Chevalier of Paris having manufactured some of these instruments, appears to have observed the great error in the position of Selligue's glasses; he retained their construction, but turned their plane sides foremost; and making them of shorter focal length and more correctly achromatic, produced in 1825 a microscope far superior to the former. His deepest glasses are not more than 0.4 inches in focal length, and two of these were united in his earlier instruments for his highest power; but this was the only combination retained in them, and all his glasses were restricted to apertures too small to show difficult test objects. However, during the 1930s the Chevalier family had already produced highly advanced microscopes that gradually contributed to improvements made to the structure and focusing techniques resulting from the increase in resolution and magnification of the instruments.

Microscope achromatique “Selon Euler perfectionné" by Charles Chevalier, 1832


Achromatic microscope by Charles Louis Chevalier (1804-1859), between 1832 and 1851, was the period he occupied the address which is engraved on the microscope. Many features in it indicate a very early date of this sequence. It is signed "Microscope achromatique / perfectionné par / Charles Chevalier / Ingénieur Opticien breveté / 163 Palais-Royal / à Paris". The total height is between 45 and 55 cm. The optical tube, complete with its flat-shaped plug and simple pull, consists of an eyepiece with two plano-convex lenses (180 and 260 mm) measuring 600 mm in height and a lens formed by two doublets. The tube is screwed on a reclining rectangular angled arm on which the stage is mounted (adjustable by a rack whose wheel is of ivory as in the early production of Chevalier) and a large concave mirror (perhaps renewed). Finally, everything is attached to a cylindrical column with a folding tripod foot. The illumination prism that appeared in the first form of Selligue-type achromatic microscopes is here replaced by a simple bull's eye lens held by a ring to the objective. Also present, on the plate, are two clamps to hold the preparations of transparent objects and, under the plate, the variable diaphragm type The Baillif. This early model of a secondary form, post-Selligue, was called "perfected" achromatic microscope by the best French manufacturer of microscopy of the first half of the nineteenth century, Charles Chevalier. It probably dates to slightly before 1840.

© Microscope History all rights reserved



© Microscope History all rights reserved

Charles Louis Chevalier (born Paris, Apr 19th 1804, died Paris, Nov 2th 1859) was an optician and instrument maker. He was son of the optician Vincent Jacques Louis Chevalier who himself was son of an optician, Louis Vincent Chevalier who had founded the family's company in Paris in 1765. The company of Vincent and Charles Chevalier was famous for the achromatic lenses which were invented by father Vincent, and the lens/prism optics they both had invented for camera obscuras. In 1825, the cousin of Nicéphore Niépce came to the Chevaliers to buy achromatic lenses for his experimental cameras. He told the Chevaliers about his cousin's first efforts to achieve persisting photographs. That was when Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre just got interested in similar experiments. Later Chevalier gave him the address of Niépce, the first step for Daguerre to become a photography inventor himself. In 1832 Charles founded his own company.

Chevalier was one of the first to use multiple lenses screwed together to achieve higher magnifying power, but chromatic aberration, which had plagued the users of microscopes since their beginnings, was still a problem with the lens combination. In 1830 Chevalier, with the help of another French microscope maker, M. Selligue, started to make horizontal microscopes, after a design shown to him in 1827 by Giovanni Amici, an Italian instrument maker. Charles Chevalier first worked in partnership with his father Vincent, eventually inheriting the shop and becoming well known for the construction of horizontal microscopes. They did not fully solve the problem of chromatic aberration. (Sources: golub collectioncamerapedia)

References: MHS 51388


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Charles Chevalier, "Petit Modèle “Achromatique Universel” microscope, ca. 1834

Charles Chevalier’s small model of the Universal Achromatic microscope, as illustrated in plate 3 of “Des Microscopes” (see Figure below). Charles’s son, Arthur, wrote that this model was invented in 1830, and won a Gold Medal for Charles at the 1834 Exposition des Produits de l’Industrie.

Chevalier Horizontal 02.jpg


© Microscope History all rights reserved

In 1834, Charles Chevalier presented his 'universal microscope' that could be arranged as a vertical, horizontal, and inverted (chemical) microscope. Its high price, however, was subject to criticism.
The present microscope demonstrates that Chevalier considered this criticism and developed a smaller and cheaper model, based on his existing small 'simple and compound model'. He kept the tube, stage, mirror, and optics, but added a second column, as well as two joints and a prism. Ironically, the resulting small universal model could be transformed into a simple microscope as well, contrary to the original and much more expensive large model.
In comparison to this very early unsigned example, later production models were one-third larger in size, had a drawtube, a double-sided mirror, a stage that could be inverted, and removable nosepieces.

James Ransome (BM_1882,0610.121).jpg

James Ransome (1782 – 1849)

The microscope box bears a brass plate with stylized writing engraved with the name James Ransome. This plate identifies the original owner of the microscope with James Ransome (1782 - 1849), a manufacturer of agricultural equipment and components of railroads. On the coming of railways, the Ransomes became the largest manufacturers of railway chairs, a patent being obtained for casting them. A patent was also taken out for compressed wood keys and treenails for securing the chairs and rails, and many millions of these were produced.

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