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Withering-type botanical microscope, 1785


The “Withering-type Microscope” is named for its inventor, Dr. William Withering (1741-1799), an English physician and botanist who graduated with a degree in medicine 1766 in Edinburgh. Inspired by the taxonomic work and systematic classification of Carl Linnæus (1707-1778), Withering (1776) applied the Linnaean taxonomic system of classification to British plants in a seminal, two volume work, A Botanical arrangement of all the vegetables naturally growing in the British Isles. The earliest reference to a small botanical microscope of Withering’s design appeared in the first edition of this book. There, Withering indicated this microscope was developed for field dissections of flowers and other plant parts. While there is no surviving example of this exact design, close relatives of this type do exist, made either completely of brass or of ivory with brass pillars. These models can be tentatively dated to 1776-1785, as by 1787 a newer model with a hollowed stage in an all-brass configuration already predominated. 

ReferencesGoren 2014 (and more references therein).

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