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Nikon H3 or HP , Field Microscope, 1967

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From the middle of the 20th century and on, professional field microscopes are dominated by the innovative concept of folded-optics. The folded-optics category refers to an exceptional design of the handheld field microscope that John Norrie McArthur invented in the 1930s. The basic design was invented by Dr. McArthur when he was appointed to carry out malaria research in Borneo by the Colonial Office in 1937. The small dimensions are due to “folding” of the light path length by turning it through two right angles by front-surfaced mirrors or prisms so that the whole microscope takes the form of a small oblong box. This compactness makes the McArthur microscope ideal for fieldwork, particularly as it can be handheld for high magnifications.

The Nikon H is undoubtedly the most innovative and elaborate model of the exclusive group of folded optics microscopes. It is also one of the 20th century most innovative designs for a microscope. The Nikon H3 or HP version, seen here, is an extremely rare improvement of the Nikon H model.


© Microscope History all rights reserved

© Microscope History all rights reserved


Excellent reviews of the Nikon H were published by Bill Amos  and more recently by Gregory Guida. Not much can be added to these fine reviews, and the following abstract only summarizes the topic. 

The Nikon H ("Hand") was designed in the 1960s by Nikon after the introduction of the commercial model of McArthur's microscope by Vickers in the 1950s. However, Nikon took the concept many steps ahead and produced one of the most sophisticated portable microscopes ever to be made. It is considered by many the best field microscope of all times. Production ceased in the late 1960s.
Nikon H was also the first microscope to operate in space. During the first Skylab mission of NASA in 1973-4, this microscope was used in an experiment examining the effects of space conditions on bacteria and spores. The Nikon H3 is the phase contrast version of the Nikon H. It differs from the main model only by the phase objectives and condenser with the phase contrast selector. This model was by far rarer than the conventional Nikon H. 

© Microscope History all rights reserved

Skylab Nikon H 2.jpg

Skylab incubator assembly

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