A History of Photography with the Light Microscope

by Brian Bracegirdle

Published on a not-for-profit basis by The Quekett Microscopical Club, a charity registered in England.

ISBN 978-0-9564591-1-4 (hardcover), vii + 232 pages. 240 x 240 mm (9.5” x 9.5”); highly illustrated.

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Book Cover

The first magnified images of nature were produced by Robert Hooke for his magnificent book, Micrographia, published in 1665. Hooke made the illustrations by first drawing, and then making engraved plates for printing. Anyone who has had the privilege of viewing these images in an original copy of Micrographia can never forget them; they are incredibly beautiful and breathtaking. The first photographic recordings of magnified images were micrographs made by the daguerreotype process around 1840. Astonishingly, after about 170 years of photographic recording of microscopical images there has been no history of photography with the light microscope—until now. Dr. Bracegirdle has once again done us the service of providing all microscopists with a complete history of a vital aspect of the art and science of microscopy—that of making a permanent record of the images of our specimens. Dr. Bracegirdle is an established author who is qualified in the history of science, photography, and microscopy. He has authored or co-authored more than twenty books, including this—his declared last book. His fifty years interest in the subject of this book, together with his practice in the production of microscopical atlases, provides him with such a personal affinity to the subject that he writes in the first person and uses the active voice.

The book has a large square format, which not only allows for a 3-column format, but provides the space needed for the three-hundred and fifty illustrations, many of which are from the author’s 2005 catalogue of the microscopy collections of the Science Museum in London, from which he retired as Chief Curator (see the review of A Catalogue of the Microscopy Collection at the Science Museum, London. In addition to the numerous illustrations, there are over five-hundred references to the extensive literature, distributed after each of the eleven chapters.

After the Preface and Acknowledgements there are eleven chapters, followed by an Index of Names, and an Index of Subjects.

Chapter 1, Introduction, is a brief summary of the image and medium, a prehistory of photographic processes, daguerreotypes, calotypes, and other processes up to the collodion process, gelatin dry plates, albumen prints, and later developments up to the advent of digital image-recording.

Chapter 2, Ilumination: sources and systems, discusses and beautifully illustrates light sources, including the Argand oil lamp (1800-1830) and John Quekett’s microscope oil lamp (1840-1850), followed by general remarks on light sources from 1840 to 1900, including natural light, candles, oil lamps, coal gas lamps, lime-light, acetylene, and electrical lamps. This is followed by the developments in sources 1900-2000, including the Nernst lamp, the fluorescence sources based on the high-pressure mercury-arc lamp, the various filament lamps (1900-2000), the arc sources (1900-2000), flash illumination, and LED illumination. The chapter concludes with a discussion of illumination systems, including critical illumination and Köhler illumination.

Chapter 3, Some notes on optical components, discusses optical equipment (1840-1900) and advances in optics (1900-2000), illustrated with catalogue pages from several manufacturers of the time.

Chapter 4 describes the practice of photomicrography in the period 1839-1880, starting with early photomicrography with Mayer’s apparatus (1844) and the apparatus of Pohl and Weselsky (1852), and then discusses Delves, Shadbolt, and Highley in the 1850’s. In addition to photos of the apparatus, there are illustrations of historically important articles on photomicrography. Books on photomicrography, 1860-1880, are then treated, including further work before 1880. Then, Girard’s book on photomicrography, Gayer’s arrangement, Nachet’s commercial apparatus (1863), Gerlach’s apparatus (1863), Möller’s apparatus (1866), and Harting’s apparatus (1866). On page 31, the captions for the figure locations of Figure 4 and Figure 5 have been transposed, but this does not result in confusion, as the authors’ names are on their papers.

Chapter 5, Progress 1880-1910, is a long chapter that discusses improvements in the apparatus, and new books and articles for the time period, including that of Sternberg. Other topics are Mercer’s attachment camera, the Swan lamp for microscopy, (1883), Stearn’s apparatus, Fol’s apparatus for stereoscopic photomicrography (1884), Viallanes’ apparatus (1886), Nachet’s, Stenglein’s, Nelson-Curties (1887), Crookshank’s, plus others. Then Zeiss’ new photomicrographic stand of 1888 and their large micro-photomicrographic apparatus. This is followed by Bézu and Hauser (1889), Dubosq (1886), Pringle (1890), Van Heurck (1892), Walmsley (1890), more Nachet, and then a discussion of August Köhler, Reichert’s apparatus (1892), Van Heurck’s book on Photo-Micrography, the Leitz photomicrographic outfit (1892), Turner’s stand by Baker (1894), Koristka’s double-bellows outfit (1894), Beck’s, Tylar’s, Shearer’s, Clément’s, Seibert & Kraftt (1890), and Spitta. Then the apparatus in the 1900-1910 period is illustrated and discussed, including the beginnings of photomicrography with ultraviolet illumination, and further work in the period 1907-1910, concluding with progress in metallography to 1910.

Chapter 6 is devoted to Developments 1910-1940. Barnard’s book and apparatus are discussed, as well as some catalogue offerings. Here too are the Leitz small and large photomicrographic apparatus, Ernemann’s cinema micro-appartus, Watson’s “Laboratory photomicrographic outfit” (1912), and Hind and Randle’s book. Next, the 1920-1930 period is discussed, including Flatters & Garnett’s apparatus (1920), Watson’s “Duplex” camera (1920), the second edition of Barnard’s books, Denne’s apparatus (1923), early Kodak publications on photomicrography, and other equipment of the 1920s. Then the period 1930-1940 is discussed, including much apparatus from both Leitz and Zeiss, and more from Beck, and Reichert, and concludes with several instruments, including the Bausch & Lomb DDE of 1939.

Chapter 7, Progress 1940-1980, starts with general developments, and then discusses specific apparatus, such as the Watson “Holophot” apparatus (1949), the Reichert “Zetopan” (~1954), and the Leitz “Dialux” (1956), and then describes selected photomicrographic texts from the 1940s. On from 1950 there was renewed commercial interest in applying exposure meters to photomicrography. Then some texts from the late 1950s are discussed, with a section devoted to Kurt Michel, followed by significant instruments from the 1960s, including the Beck “Optomax”, the Zeiss photomicroscope (~ 1965), and the Union Optical Co. inverted microscope (~ 1965). Next, a selection of photomicrographic papers to 1970 is treated, together with illustrations of Vickers’ “Patholux”, and their “Autowind” attachment camera and system (~ 1966), the Zeiss “Ultraplot II”, the “Hilux 70” by Watson , and the Wild photomicrographic apparatus. Selected photomicrographic texts of the 1960s are also discussed. The Leitz “Orthoplan”, the CCTV system by Gillett & Seibert and their 16-mm cine-timelapse microscope, and the Zeiss Jena “Amplival” are illustrated. Then, more from Vickers, the Zeiss “Axiomat”, and photomicrographic texts of the 1970s. This is followed by makers’ publications on photomicrography, and the beginnings of automatic image analysis.

Chapter 8 is devoted to the Photomicrographic Society, 1911-1951, in which the origins, history, and publications of that organization are discussed. This chapter is most welcome, because it answers the questions of so many who have been trying to assemble the society’s publications, especially the elusive and rare first issues of the transactions that were produced on a duplicating machine, and the copies following the 1927-1939 Symposium of Apparatus volume. The illustrations in this chapter are primarily from the Symposium volume. The final publication of the organization was only a stenciled foolscap affair, which is also next to impossible to locate.

Chapter 9 is devoted to Microphotography. It starts with a discussion as to the first introduction of microphotography by John Benjamin Dancer or Dagron. Dancer’s microphotographic slides are illustrated and discussed, along with the apparatus of Shadbolt and that of Willemin. The author tells the interesting story here of his using Dancer’s original negatives to illustrate the book that he co-authored with J. B. McCormick, The Microscopic Photographs of J. B. Dancer (1993). Here, also, is a discussion of the Pigeon Post, and nineteenth-century microphotographic slides by other makers. The chapter concludes with a discussion of twentieth-century microphotographic slides, and applications of microphotography to graticule manufacture and document recording.

Chapter 10 covers the field of PhotoMACROgraphy, starting with the apparatus by Nachet (1863), and then proceeding to Pre-WWI, and onto the start of WWII. The photomacrographic apparatus of several makers are illustrated here, together with a discussion of photomacrographic lenses; much of this is by Leitz and Zeiss. Then the period 1940-1980 is treated, which includes Beck’s macroscopic stand and the Leitz “Aristophot”. The 1980-2010 period is discussed and illustrated with the Zeiss “Tessovar”, the Wild “Photo Makroskop”, and the Nikon Macro-dia base is used with an apparatus assembled by the author; other of the author’s personal set-ups conclude the chapter.

Chapter 11 is devoted to Developments 1980-2010. Here are discussions of the influence of fluorescence microscopy on photomicrography, image analysis, automatic microscopes, confocal microscopes, ultraviolet and infrared microscopy, cine-microscopy and video-microscopy, some early 1980s instruments, some texts from the period, and advances in digital recording.

It is not possible to praise this book too much. Not only is it complete, authoritative, and very generously illustrated in both black-and-white and color on high-quality paper stock, but it is bargain-priced. In the Preface, and in volume 39 of the Club’s Journal, the author describes how Gerry Martin, a now-deceased Quekett Club member, gave the Club a benefaction to allow for the publication of a range of books on microscopy to be sold at a subsidized price. This beautiful book is highly recommended, and it is suggested, at this low cost, to purchase a second copy for gift-giving.