top of page

Later Double Tripod Microscopes


Late Double Tripod (Culpeper-type) microscope, ca.1780.

Between 1725 and 1730, British microscope designer and maker Edmund Culpeper produced what was to become a very popular microscope type. His design had a double tripod base, the lower level of which had a mirror to illuminate specimens on the upper level.

It is clear today that Culpeper did not entirely produce his microscopes. Like many 18th-century manufacturers, he probably acquired them by outsourcing their parts to numerous workshops and then retailing them under his name (which only appeared as trade cards glued to the inner parts of their pyramidal cases). The design was quickly copied by numerous makers and enjoyed immense popularity throughout the 18th century.

In some ways, the Culpeper microscope was a step back in microscope design, as the upright aspect was difficult to use and illuminate. Their optical performance was mediocre at best. However, the Culpeper-type microscope was simple to construct and not exceptionally costly. Therefore, it opened up the world of microscopy to a larger audience.


French Double Tripod microscope by François-Antoine Jecker, 1810


© Microscope History all rights reserved

The Eden Treaty was signed between Great Britain and France in 1786, named after the British negotiator William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland (1744–1814). It effectively ended, for a brief time, the economic war between France and Britain and set up a system to reduce tariffs on goods from either country. It was spurred on in Britain by the secession of the thirteen American colonies and the publication of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. The ideas of Smith heavily influenced British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and were one of the key motivators of the treaty. Obstinacy in negotiations on the part of Britain made the commercial agreement almost wholly beneficial to the British, and the unequal protection of specific industries ended up hurting the French economy. This treaty is often considered to be one of the grievances of the French people that sparked the French Revolution. The treaty collapsed in 1793, following claims in the National Convention that the Aliens Act 1793 breached the terms of the treaty and the outbreak of war in early February between Great Britain and France ended any chance of a compromise.

François-Antoine Jecker was born to a farmer, a resident in Alsace with roots in the Solothurn area. His brother was the needle manufacturer Laurenz Jecker. He obtained permission to go to Besancon, where he studied for a year at the age of 19 years. In 1786, he sailed to London, where he was introduced to Jesse Ramsden, the best English engineer at the time. Ramsden accepted Jecker as his pupil from 1786 to 1792 and later became also his friend. Through personal studies in the mathematical sciences, he succeeded in producing the instruments of nautical, astronomical, optical and weights and measures, the knowledge that he later took with him to France to become the leading maker of these instruments during the Napoleonic Era. In 1792, undoubtedly due to the French Revolution and the renewal of anti-French emotions in Britain, he returned to Paris and opened his workshop for producing optical and astronomical instruments.  where he worked until 1825, along with his brothers Gervais and Protais. The quality of his work fell on soon, and in 1794 he was awarded for his achievements a national award. In 1800 he moved with about 40 employees of the Rue de Marmoursets 20 into the Rue de Bondi 32.


François-Antoine Jecker, 1765 - 1834

Jecker was selling four different forms of microscopes, all quite rare: a classic Culpeper-type of which we know some examples, a very rare Amici-type catadiodriptic microscope of which we know only two examples, and two different drum-type microscope of his own invention. This tripod microscope is identical with a signed specimen from the Nachet collection. 

Nachet Collection a.jpg
Nachet Collection b.jpg

Jecker did not focus on making microscopes although he developed some original models of his own, but turned to making sextants (a craft he had learned in Britain from Ramsden) and other measuring instruments. The reason for this was undoubtedly his return to France in the wake of the revolution, when most of his activity took place during the Napoleonic Wars. The French navy undoubtedly needed these navigational devices and Jecker became their supplier to the army, an activity for which he was promoted to captain.

bottom of page