West Midlands spring meeting
Saturday 14th April 2018
Mike Woof organised another well-attended joint meeting of the Quekett and the Postal Microscopical Society, held again in 2 rooms at the Haling Dene Centre in Penkridge, Staffordshire. The morning was given over to exhibits and sales (items ranging from brochures and bulbs to a large trinocular microscope outfit), and the afternoon was given over to lectures.
Haling Dene Centre
Colin Lamb showed a book by Michael Shaw (Your microscope hobby: How to make multi-colored filters: Rheinberg, polarizing, darkfield and oblique, ISBN 978-1511421478). The book has black-and-white illustrations but includes a link to a colour version that can be downloaded.
Your microscope hobby, by Michael Shaw
Geoff Mould brought his Leica GZ6 trinocular stereomicroscope fitted with a Nikon D5000 digital SLR camera and 2 LEDs on flexible arms powered from a lead-acid battery. Geoff’s specimens included several types of sand and small electronic components joined by tiny wires to printed circuit boards.
Geoff Mould’s exhibit
Geoff also showed a few home-made LED illuminators.
Jeremy Poole brought the Zeiss Photomicroscope II that he bought a few years ago and to which he has recently strain-free objectives and added accessories for polarised light (rotating polariser and stage, calibrated rotating analyser, Bertrand lens and strain-free eyepiece with cross hairs). Jeremy showed some of his own slides, a Brian Darnton arrangement of leaf scales and fern scales, and several slides belonging to Robert Ratford. Jeremy also brought a much smaller polarising microscope.
Jeremy Poole (seated) and Les Franchi
Slides for the polarising microscope (borrowed from Robert Ratford)
Jeremy also brought some books, A colour atlas of rocks and minerals in thin section by W. S. MacKenzie & A. E. Adams, The preparation and mounting of thin sections and small whole mounts of rocks and minerals for microscopical examination by Derek D. Underhill, An introduction to crystal optics by P. Gay and Minerals and the microscope by H. G. Smith (revised by M. K. Wells).
Joan Bingley attended the M. C. Cooke Lecture “Why flies” by Dr Erica McAlister on Tuesday 10th April and brought a selection of Diptera slides (including some by Ron Cushing) that we could examine using a simple compound microscope. Erica’s lecture is available in the password-protected area of the Quekett website, and her first book (The secret life of flies) has recently been published.
Joan Bingley’s exhibit
The secret life of flies, by Dr Erica McAlister
John Fletcher brought an elaborate black and chrome monocular microscope with a ½″ NA 0.5 objective constructed as 3 cemented doublets. This construction was common in the 19th century until superceded by the Amici design with a single front element. Computer programs for designing and optimising lens designs now enable us to explore the possibilities of the 3-doublet design.
John Fletcher’s exhibit
John Ward brought a brass Wenham binocular microscope fitted with a tourmaline analyser, an uncommon and expensive alternative to a Nicol prism. Compared to a Nicol prism (which John also brought), the tourmaline analyser provided better extinction and an unobstructed field of view. The microscope was fitted with a Smith, Beck & Beck 1½″ objective.
John Ward’s exhibit
John also brought a wooden box with a large range of accessories for the microscope.
Wooden box of accessories for John Ward’s microscope
Les Franchi brought a very unusual Watson item, a Waterhouse pattern Museum Microscope with a rotating drum that can hold 12 slides. Museum visitors could change slides by turning a knob on the side and focus by turning a ring around the eyepiece, but the other controls were inside the locked case. Les had rescued the microscope when it was being thrown out by Birmingham Medical School, and fitted his own slides, objective and eyepiece. It was originally supplied with a low-power 1½″ or 2″ objective. Tony Dutton had identified the instrument and provided a page from the 1938 Watson catalogue. Illumination was provided by a hemispherical LED lamp.
Watson Waterhouse pattern Museum Microscope
Les also brought a few other items, including a camera lucida and a simple microscope.
Camera lucida and simple microscope
Mike Gibson showed his Lomo Biolam С1Ч42 fitted with a Meopta monocular head (no adapter needed). Mike had replaced the bulb in the lamp housing with a hemispherical LED light, now available for just £3 and fitted with an on/off switch. Power came from a power bank available from pound shops. He was also promoting the Annual Exhibition of the Microscopy Section of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society on Sunday 24th June, where Mark Powell will demonstrate how to make slides of lichen.
Ralph Prince and Mike Gibson
Lomo microscope with LED illumination
Mike also brought a book of his photomicrographs.
Book of Mike Gibson’s photomicrographs
Mike Samworth brought a Nikon stereomicroscope so that we could examine 2 slides made by Doug Morgan, the oldest PMS member who had recently passed away aged 98. These 2 slides, of shield-bug egg cases and iron pyrite crystals, were labelled as having been made in February 2000 and having received the Eric Marson Award from the Quekett.
Doug Morgan’s slides
Robert Ratford brought a Vickers M15 binocular microscope, a Russian microscope in its fitted metal case and a box of Biosil slides. He also brought a box of dirty and damaged slides that he had intended to restore, but he has now realised that he will never have the time and so he was giving away the slides to anyone who was interested.
Robert Ratford (standing) and Colin Lamb
Stephen Parker brought his trinocular Nikon S-Ke microscope fitted with the uncommon interference phase contrast attachment and condenser. This system uses normal Nikon achromat objectives and a birefringent phase ring between a polariser, an analyser and a ¼-wave retardation plate in the attachment. Setting the analyser at 45° and rotating the polariser provides a range of colour contrasts. Stephen used a Chinese inspection camera to show images on a Samsung television.
Stephen Parker’s exhibit
Bill Morris was selling a large poster of the type that used to be used in schools.
School poster of Entomostraca
Colin Kirk was not able to attend the meeting, but he sent along a box of slides of botanical specimens (stained with Astra Blue and safranin) that sold well at just £2 each.
Colin Kirk’s slides
Colin Kirk’s slides
Colin Lamb was selling a trinocular Nikon S-Ke complete with its external transformer, a monocular Carl Zeiss Jena stand, and a slide ringing turntable.
Nikon S-Ke trinocular microscope
Geoff Mould had a fiche reader that can be used to show microscope slides on its built-in screen, a variac, lots of pH test papers and an assortment of books.
Geoff Mould’s sales table
Geoff Mould’s books
Jeremy Poole has too many polarising microscopes, so he was selling his Leitz student model.
Leitz student polarising microscope
Lawrence Hartley seems to have a never-ending supply of interesting books, and was also selling sieves, lenses for a Kodak Carousel slide projector and a device for attaching an iPhone to a microscope.
Bill Morris, Spike Walker and Mike Gibson
Mike Samworth and Steve Gill were still selling items from the estate of Steve Edgar, included around 20 Zeiss 100× objectives (including a Plan Apo, Neofluars and phase) for just £10 each, some Leitz and other objectives, lots of eyepieces and condensers, enlarging lenses (including Componons and Rodagons) for £10 each, a CTS M72 polarising microscope, a drawing attachment, microtome knives, a Schott fibre-optic unit with a ring light, and lots of other items.
Mike Samworth and Steve Gill
Steve Edgar’s objectives, eyepieces and condensers
Steve Edgar’s microscopes and accessories
Paul Wheatley had several microscopes, including a Wild M11 with gliding stage, Olympus CK inverted and KHC compounds, Swift polarising, a Zeiss GFL and a Zeiss Junior stand. Paul also had an assortment of bulbs, and eyepieces and objectives by Beck, Kyowa, Leica and Olympus, and an Olympus CT-5 phase telescope.
Paul Wheatley’s microscopes
Joan Bingley and Robert Ratford brought items for the Quekett Shop, where books, ties and USB drives with the Journal archive were available.
Ralph Prince was selling a Watson Service microscope.
Watson Service microscope
Stephen Parker was selling 3 microscopes, a Vickers M74 polarising microscope, an unbranded monocular student microscope, and a Myacope zoom monocular in its wooden case.
Stephen Parker’s microscopes
Spike Walker was offering lots of Zeiss brochures and leaflets, back numbers of Balsam Post, and a few small accessories.
John Birds, ? and Peter Massington browsing Zeiss brochures
Steve Gill was selling a Reichert Zetopan outfit that included monocular, binocular and trinocular heads, normal objectives and condenser, and phase contrast objectives and condenser.
Reichert Zetopan microscope outfit
After a break for lunch, we set out chairs in the larger room for 3 talks.
Bill Morris giving his talk
Bill Morris spoke on “Making microscopes: Optical construction kits since the 1930’s”. Bill is fascinated by kits for children that can be used to construct microscopes. It is possible to construct microscopes using Meccano or Lego, but Bill concentrated on optical kits. Brands that he has bought (mostly on eBay) and tested include Construments, Optic-Variant, Clubman, Optik Montage, Optikit, Optical Science and Scope Constructor. He is still trying to find a FischerTechnik at a reasonable price. Bill showed us photographs of the kits and the assembled microscopes, and photomicrographs taken with them. Sadly, none of them have good design, good instructions and good lenses. Bill’s favourite is the Construments kit.
John Birds worked for many years at Chatsworth House and has many stories to tell about his time there. His reminiscences today including rounding up the deer during a foot-and-mouth epidemic to prevent them being infected by visitors, stringing fairy lights for the first Christmas opening, his first industrial accident after more than 20 years of safe working, his alarm at a broken window and blood and tissue on him that turned out to be from a pheasant caught in a very strong wind and blown through a window and into a woodworking machine, and many rooms full of items that were once ordinary but were never thrown away and are now valuable
Mike Gibson spoke on “The enigma of Elgar’s microscope”. In 2015, Mike and Ray Sloss visited the Elgar Birthplace Museum and ran a Micro-Science Activity Weekend there. Soon after, they returned and photographed all of the slides in the Museum. Another Quekett member, Eric Impey, had been to the Museum earlier and wrote an article “Sir Edward Elgar and the microscope” for the Journal. While he was living in Hampstead in 1911–1921, Sir Edward developed an interest in microscopy, owned 6 or 7 microscopes and several hundred slides, and collected specimens from Hampstead Heath and Highgate Ponds The only surviving microscope is his Ross No. 1 in the Museum, and they only have about 130 of his slides. Mike showed us photographs and photomicrographs of many of the slides in the Museum. Mike and Ray wrote an article “Elgar and the microscope” for the Summer 2016 issue of the Journal.
The talks by Bill Morris and Mike Gibson were recorded and will be available in the password-protected area of the Quekett website.
Entries for the photo competition
Our thanks to Mike Woof for organising another enjoyable day for microscopists, to everyone who brought exhibits and items for sale, and to the speakers who informed and entertained us in the afternoon.
Report and photographs by Alan Wood