M19494.1-39 | Microscope

About 1860, 19th century
9.5 x 34.1 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Microscope (3)
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Keys to History

A microscope is an instrument for magnifying small objects by means of a lens or lenses to reveal details invisible to the naked eye.

In 1611, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) suggested the construction of a compound microscope that used convex lenses for both the objective and the eyepiece. The Kepler microscope provided a larger field of view and became the prototype of the modern microscope. Anton van Leeuwehoek (1632-1723) later invented the simple microscope, which consists of a single lens with relatively high magnification.

This microscope was probably acquired by Sir William Dawson (1820-1899) in Edinburg, Scotland, where he studied. During the 1850s and 1860s, Dawson may have used it for his microscopic studies of fossil animals and plants, pioneering work for which he became widely recognized.

  • What

    The glass lenses of this microscope are enclosed by an outer casing of brass.

  • Where

    The microscope was made in London by the firm of Dolland and may have been sold by a retailer in Edinburgh.

  • When

    This microscope was probably acquired by Sir William Dawson (1820-1899) in the autumn of 1840, while he was studying geology and other subjects at the University of Edinburgh. It was there that he learned how to prepare thin sections of fossil animals and plants for examination by microscope.

  • Who

    Dawson's innovative research in geology, together with his efforts to build strong faculties in the biological and physical sciences and in engineering, laid the foundation for McGill University.