Reading Convention

Saturday 11th March 2017

The annual convention of the Reading Microscopical Society was again organised by Mike Woof and Kit Brownlee and held in the familiar venue of St Peter’s Church Hall in Earley, just outside Reading. The meeting had been promoted on Facebook, and there was at least one new face, as well as lots of Quekett members, among the visitors. The morning was devoted to sales and exhibits, followed by a break for lunch and then 2 lectures in the afternoon.

The Hall was opened at 9:00 a.m. with the first hour for setting up. As usual, there was a good range of microscopes, objectives, eyepieces, accessories and slides for sale, but not many books for sale this time.


Mike Gibson and Ray Sloss showed a brass Wenham binocular microscope by Henry Crouch with a box of accessories, using an Ernst Leitz objective to view a T. Gerrard slide of mixed Radiolaria. Illumination was from a Lomo ОИ-19 that Ray had converted to LED; it ran all day without getting hot.

Wenham binocular microscope by Henry CrouchWenham binocular microscope by Henry Crouch

Gerrard slide under Henry Crouch microscopeT. Gerrard slide of mixed Radiolaria on Henry Crouch microscope

They also showed a replica of a van Leeuwenhoek microscope that Ray had made.

Replica of a van Leeuwenhoek microscopeReplica of a van Leeuwenhoek microscope

Barry Ellam showed 2 Koristka of Milan brass monocular microscopes dating from the 1920s or 1930s. One was a simple model probably aimed at the education market, the other was more professional with a circular stage and an Abbe condenser. Barry’s slides included the marine alga Ptilota elegans and a Watson slide of Policistina from Springfields, Barbados.

Paul Smith, Barry Ellam and Tim NewtonPaul Smith, Barry Ellam (centre) and Tim Newton

Slide of marina alga Ptilota elegansBarry’s slide of the marine alga Ptilota elegans [now Plumaria plumosa]

Joan Bingley brought some specimens of petrified wood that she had found in a spoil heap in Patagonia (once part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana) for us to examine under her stereomicroscope. The growth rings and cell walls that have been substituted by rock could be seen. The specimens showed signs of having been worked to produce sharp edges. Joan also brought PMS Box 16, Tumbled minerals by W. E. Dickinson, with a selection of gemstones for viewing under oblique incident light.

Joan Bingley’s petrified wood exhibitJoan’s petrified wood and tumbled minerals exhibit [photo by Robert Ratford]

Robert Ratford brought dozens of resin blocks containing whole insects, easy to find on eBay from sellers in China, and two stereomicroscopes for viewing them, including a Meiji EMT on a boom stand.

Mary Morris examining Robert Ratford’s exhibitMary Morris examining Robert’s exhibit

Insect pests in resinInsect pests in resin

Kit Brownlee showed slices from a chondrite meteorite and an iron meteorite, a polished and etched section of an iron meteorite, a piece of moldavite and a small sand fulgurite, all of which we could examine using her Zeiss stereomicroscope.

Kit Brownlee’s meteorite exhibitKit Brownlee’s meteorite exhibit

Kit provided detailed notes on her specimens, and also brought a book, Meteorites by Caroline Smith, Sarah Russell & Gretchen Benedix, published by the Natural History Museum.

Graham West used his Orion S420 stereomicroscope with an LED illuminator to show three £1 coins, one of which was counterfeit.

Genuine and counterfeit £1 coinsGenuine and counterfeit £1 coins

Chris Millward brought a collection of Mycetozoa (slime moulds) in small glass-topped boxes that E. K. Maxwell had exhibited at a Quekett meeting on 8th June 1950; Chris provided an Olympus stereomicroscope so that we could take a closer look at the specimens. E. Kelly Maxwell served in France during the First World War and sent some specimens back to England. He constructed a microscope and used it to show diatoms and rotifers to the local people. He described his experiences in a paper in the Journal entitled “The Amateur Microscopist During Wartime”.

Collection of slime mouldsCollection of slime moulds

Klaus Kemp brought along lots of his amazing arrangements of diatoms and butterfly scales, a big Leitz microscope for examining the slides, and the smaller microscope that he uses for arranging the diatoms and scales. This is Lomo stand with a Leitz trinocular head, a Wild phase contrast condenser, an old Beck ½ inch objective that provides the optimum magnification and working distance, and a simple micromanipulator.

Phil Greaves and Klaus KempPhil Greaves and Klaus Kemp (right)

Klaus Kemp’s manipulatorKlaus Kemp’s manipulator and Beck ½″ objective

Tony Pattinson always puts on an interesting exhibit related to aquatic life, and this time he was showing organisms from sediment, particularly sulfur bacteria, as well as videos of other organisms.

Dennis Fullwood admiring Tony Pattinson’s displayDennis Fullwood admiring Tony’s display

The camera that Tony uses on his trinocular Olympus CH-2 is a 5 MP ToupCam that comes with ToupView software for taking stills and videos and includes stacking, stitching, noise reduction and scale bars. The camera is fitted with a 12.5 mm Cosmicar lens for afocal coupling, and the distance between the camera lens and the microscope eyepiece can be adjusted using a compact Asahi Pentax bellows unit, to minimise vignetting.

ToupCam camera with afocal coupling to a trinocular headToupCam camera afocally coupled to a trinocular head

Tony has modified his Swift Microtech M100 inverted microscope to use LED illumination, and to accept a Logitech webcam on the camera port on the right-hand side of the base.

Swift inverted microscope with a webcamSwift Microtech M100 inverted microscope with a webcam

Output from a webcam, on a computerOutput from the webcam, on a computer

Tony has been experimenting with using sound waves to separate solids (such as sand and diatoms) in water. He used an upward-firing loudspeaker on the base of his PZO stereomicroscope, with a small dish on top of it, and used an oscillator to test the effects of different frequencies.

Sorting material in water using a loudspeakerSorting material in water using a loudspeaker

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Paul Wheatley had more microscopes than usual, including a Wild M11, a trinocular Leica Dialux 20 with phase contrast, an Olympus BHT, a Zeiss Standard with phase contrast, a trinocular Kyowa, an Olympus KHC, an Olympus CK inverted, a Swift polarising microscope, and an Olympus SZ stereomicroscope with its transmitted-light base. Paul also had an Olympus PM-LED trans-illuminator (later paired up with a TF transformer from the Quekett table), and an assortment of objectives, eyepieces and bulbs.

Paul Wheatley’s used microscopes for salePaul Wheatley’s used microscopes for sale

Mike Gibson and Ray Sloss were selling some Biosil slides, a Beck 47 monocular microscope, a Wild binocular head, a dark-ground attachment for a stereomicroscope, and wide-angle and telephoto attachments for a camera.

Beck 47 microscope with boxBeck 47 microscope with box

Phil Greaves was selling several microscopes, condensers, eyepieces, objectives, bulbs, accessories and books on behalf of the Quekett Microscopical Club. The microscopes included a Zeiss Photomicroscope, an Olympus CK inverted, a Mantis FX direct-vision stereomicroscope (formerly owned by Ken Jones), a Swift polarising microscope, a Vickers M15, a Watson Bactil and a Watson Bactil 60.

Joan Bingley, Phil Greaves and Danny with some interesting microscopesJoan Bingley, Phil Greaves and Danny with some interesting microscopes

Lomo brightfield/darkfield reflected light attachmentLomo brightfield/darkfield reflected-light attachment

Microscopes, books, a lamp, and a slide cabinetMicroscopes, books, a lamp, and a Watkins & Doncaster slide cabinet

Bulbs and eyepiecesBulbs and eyepieces

Chris Kennedy was selling a brass Carl Zeiss Jena microscope in its wooden box, and a huge collection of objectives, eyepieces, nosepieces, body tubes etcetera.

Brass Carl Zeiss Jena microscopeBrass Carl Zeiss Jena microscope

Chris Kennedy (left) watching Barry Ellam looking for a bargainChris Kennedy (left) watching Barry Ellam looking for a bargain

Carel Sartory looking for a bargainCarel Sartory looking for a bargain

John Millham has retired from working as a dealer and sold his remaining stock to Brunel Microscopes. Since then, he has found some overlooked items, including a Leica DM 2000, assorted objectives, eyepieces, condensers, fluorescence sliders, polarising sliders and test slides, and several other accessories.

John Millham and Robert MustonJohn Millham and Robert Muston

Lenses and accessoriesLenses and accessories

Fluorescence and polarising slidersFluorescence and polarising sliders

Chris Millward had an Intel Play digital microscope, an Ultra Lens magnifier, a set of Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, and assorted laboratory glassware.

Intel Play digital microscope and Ultra Lens magnifierIntel Play digital microscope and Ultra Lens magnifier

Mike Samworth and Steve Gill brought several trays of slides for sale at 50p each,  from Biosil (John Wells), NBS (Eric Marson), Flatters & Garnett, Carolina Biological Supply Company, Philip Harris and others. They also had some books, booklets, slide boxes, a couple of microscopes and some bits of microscopes.

Trays of slides for saleTrays of slides for sale

Spike Walker, Phil Greaves, Mark Burgess and John MillerSpike Walker, Phil Greaves, Mark Burgess and John Miller

Dave Skeet was selling a Wild M20 equipped for brightfield and darkfield reflected light (good for biological subjects in darkfield mode).
Tim Newton has acquired too many Cooke, Troughton & Simms microscopes, so he was selling his CTS M1000, M2000 and M3000.

CTS M1000 and a Wild M20 epi-illumination microscopeCTS M1000 and a Wild M20 epi-illumination microscope

Joan Bingley was selling several items on behalf of Alan Kime’s widow, including a Carl Zeiss Jena compound microscope, a stereo viewer, some Lomo items for reflected light, and a Bresser Biolux NG still in its box.

Items from Alan Kime’s estateItems from Alan Kime’s estate

Joan Bingley also brought the Quekett shop-in-a-box, an assortment of items that are normally only available by post. Ray Trapmore, the Club’s Sales Officer, can’t get to most microscope meetings so this gives visitors the opportunity to examine items and to avoid postage charges.

Quekett ShopQuekett Shop

Nigel Williams offered a dissecting microscope, complete with its arm rests and wooden box.

Dissecting microscope with arm restsDissecting microscope with arm rests

There were also some monocular microscopes with their wooden boxes for sale.

Monocular microscopes with wooden boxesMonocular microscopes with wooden boxes

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Free to a good home

Mike Samworth and Steve Gill brought several items that were free to anyone who could make use of them, including some Watson stands, a huge Zeiss transformer, lots of copies of The Amateur Diatomist, some fans and heat sinks, and a bag full of 35mm film canisters.

Free Watson standsFree Watson stands

Free Watson stand, journals, fans and film canistersFree Watson stand, journals, fans and film canisters


After a break for lunch, we moved to the large meeting room upstairs and Mike Woof introduced the speakers. Ray Sloss recorded the lectures on a video camera, and the videos will be made available in the Members’ area of the Quekett website.

Kit Brownlee’s subject was “Deciphering the slide label: Some trials and tribulations” and she listed the items that are essential or useful on a label, including the identity of the specimen, its habitat, its location, dates of collection and mounting, stains, mountant and method of observation. Amateur mounters such as Doug Richardson and Eric Doddrell Evens tend to include lots of data on their labels, sometimes with writing so small that it is difficult to read even with a magnifier, while commercial mounters and dealers may include only the subject. Handwriting can be difficult to decipher. Latin names can change, but databases and Google searches can help to find current names. Abbreviations that seem obvious to the mounter may not be obvious to other people and are best avoided. Latitude and longitude, and grid references in the UK, are useful and can now be obtained from GPS apps on mobile phones. Unfamiliar geographic names can sometimes be clarified with Google searches. Old slides may be labelled with the intended method of observation in unfamiliar terms; “Polariscope” means crossed polarisers, and “Spot lens” means dark-ground illumination. Adhesive labels are unsuitable; they come off and/or discolour. Good quality paper stuck to the slide with gum arabic or gum tragacanth were recommended. Computer printing should enable legible labels even at small point sizes, but fancy fonts should be avoided.

Kit Brownlee lecturingKit Brownlee lecturing

Pam Hamer’s subject was “Forensic microscopy: Tales from the past”, and she told us about the origins and development of forensic microscopy, its slow adoption by police forces, and the development of comparison microscopes (used for comparing striations on 2 bullets). Comparison microscopes and systems for measuring the refractive index of glass particles by immersing them in standard liquids have largely been replaced by digital systems. The development of DNA identification has caused a great reduction in the use of forensic microscopy. One exception is the use of stereomicroscopes for scanning evidence in minute detail to find tiny biological samples that can be used for DNA analysis. An example of this technique is the discovery of a tiny drop of Stephen Lawrence’s blood on a fibre on the jacket of one of killers.

Pam Hamer lecturingPam Hamer lecturing and Ray Sloss recording


Our thanks to Kit Brownlee and Mike Woof for organising another enjoyable day for microscopists, to Sheila Kemp for making coffee and tea for us, and to everyone who put on exhibits for us or brought along items for us to buy at bargain prices.

The Quekett Microscopical Club provided a grant towards the cost of this event, as part of its remit as a charity to promote microscopy.

Report and photographs by Alan Wood

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