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Microscopes by Georg Simon Plößl (Plössl) of Wien 

After Napoleon's defeat and the Vienna Congress, the reality cultivated a bourgeois apolitical lifestyle known as the "Biedermeier culture." The emperor's residence attracted significant forces from the German-speaking world, which, thanks to the many foreign influences, enabled outstanding achievements that made up the cultural splendor of Vienna at the time. 

Plössl's "Mittleres Dreiecksfuß" microscope, ~1845

Seen here is the non-inclining version of Plössl's middle-sized microscope. It is made of lacquered gilded brass, with a supporting steel prism pole connected to a brass column on a flat tripod via a joint that allows the tripod to be folded. The instrument has a double-mounted concave mirror for illumination. The coarse focusing is done by a drive that acts on a steel rack embedded in the steel prism rod used for guidance and moves the tube relative to the microscope stage. The exemplary movement moves the stage along the optical axis; the associated knurled wheel is attached to the lower end of the prism rod. The microscope stage is designed as a cross stage; a flat specimen clamp is integrated. A hole in the stage accommodates the steel tweezers attached to the microscope with four bearings.

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Simon Georg Plössl (1794-1868)

The collaboration with scientists promoted optical industries, which reached a temporary high point with the products of the Viennese optician Simon Plössl (1794-1868). Until the introduction of scientifically calculated optics - founded by Ernst Abbe at the Carl Zeiss company in Jena - his devices were highly esteemed by users in Europe. Plössl's compound achromatic microscope won first prize at a gathering of German naturalists and doctors in Heidelberg in 1829 over similar instruments such as those from Amici of Modena, Dollond in London, Fraunhofer in Munich, Chevalier, Oberhäuser or Selligue in Paris.

Simon Georg Plössl came from a Viennese family of craftsmen. He learned to read and write from his father, who gave him an apprenticeship as a master turner at 12. After completing this apprenticeship, he started another training because he wanted to become an optician. So on May 9, 1812, he came to the well-known master optician Friedrich Voigtlaender, who had worked for Ramsden in London for several years and had been running a workshop in Vienna since 1807. At that time, he produced small pocket and compass microscopes and achromatic lenses for research purposes. It can be assumed that the achromatic lenses produced since 1817, which are among the first in the German-speaking area, came from Plössel's make. He worked as an apprentice up to November 27, 1823, or later as a journeyman. He learned all the work from Voigtlaender that was necessary to found and run an independent company. Above all, he got to know his most essential sponsors there, the botanist and director of the botanical garden, Josef Freiherr v. Jacquin, for whom he sometimes made complex custom-made products, and the astronomer and director of the Vienna University Observatory, Josef Johann v. Littrow. Both encouraged Plössl to open his workshop. On their advice, he attended courses in mathematics and optics at the Polytechnic Institute and the University of Vienna. This knowledge enabled him to improve his optical devices. After eleven educational years with Voigtlaender, he finally opened his workshop in 1823. He produced binoculars, glasses, theater perspectives, and so-called aplanatic magnifying glasses named after him and widely sold.

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Plössl's "Großer Rundfuß", ~1854

This is the large microscope made by Simon Plössl around 1854. Plössl's microscope stands were made with the typical round base (seen here) instead of those with the flat tripod base. Plössl now also manufactured eyepieces for insertion instead of screwing in as before. The microscope seen here was equipped with a round brass stage with a recessed black matt glass insert and two brass object holders mounted on an eccentric column. Typically to Plössl (after his earliest models), the stand was based on a prismatic rod. It is signed on the tube" Plössl in Wien", having three eye-lenses (1, 2, 3), two later Reichert objectives (3 and 6a), a frosted black glass table, concave mirror, prism, condenser lens on the stand, two-micrometer slides, 1 magnifier, and other accessories in original wood veneered and green velvet fitted case. Size c. 41,8 x 23,5 x 14 cm. The microscopes made in Vienna by Simon Plössl's successors Carl Fritsch and Wenzel Prokesch had rectangular stages lacking the glass coating.

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Plössl's optical instruments soon attracted the attention of several researchers, including the physicist and applied mathematician Andreas Freiherr von Baumgartner (1793-1865), the mathematician and physicist Andreas Freiherr von Ettingshausen (1796-1878), the botanist Joseph Franz Freiherr von Jacquin (1766-1839), the astronomer Joseph Johann von Littrow (1781-1840). Microscopes made by Plössl were used by Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) for his experiments on pea plant genetics and plant hybridization conducted between 1856 and 1863. They supported him with commissions to achieve national and international fame within a decade. However, uncharacteristically for his time, he never lives outside his hometown and does not even leave Lower Austria to travel. Plössl is considered an honest optician and mechanic; He published his first list of prices in 1828, soon followed by more detailed ones. According to the calculations of v. From 1832, Littrow manufactured Plössl dialytic telescopes, which soon became instruments in great demand worldwide - like all-optical products from Plössll's workshop, the images produced with them were of considerable brightness and sharpness. 

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On January 29, 1868, Simon Plössl died after a tragic accident in his workshop when a falling glass plate wounded his right arm so much that he failed to overcome the injury and perished of complications shortly after. The workshop was maintained by his sister Anna Fleckenstein (née Plössl), who sold microscopes under the company name S. Plössl & Comp. Later, it was renamed S. Plössl & Cie. This brand name continued to produce instruments till 1905, still offered original, typical Plössl microscopes until 1882, but from 1875 production gradually switched to the manufacture of horseshoe stands.

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The text on this page is partly based on the excellent website (originally in German) "Museum of optical instruments," © 2000 - 2010 by Timo Mappes, Germany.

References: SML A56530

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