Gossip meeting “My latest microscopical acquisition”

Saturday 12th January 2019

The first meeting of the year was held in the PA135 Meeting Room in the Natural History Museum and drew a good crowd of members and some visitors. It was good to see that more people than usual brought exhibits.

Lisa and Nigel Ashby brought a Watson Student’s Petrological Microscope that they had cleaned up after buying it in an auction. It is shown in the 1896 catalogue, and its Nicol prisms have been replaced with polarising material. This suits Lisa because she finds Nicol prisms difficult to use, and now she can admire all her slides that are marked “For polariscope”.

Lisa AshbyLisa Ashby

Watson polarising microscopeWatson Student’s Petrological Microscope

Lisa and Nigel also brought a selection of “For polariscope” slides (mostly hairs) and some slides by William West of Bradford, who published The Algal Flora of Yorkshire with his son in 1900.

Kit Brownlee used the Club’s Zeiss Jena microscope to show a slide that Brian Darnton had made of forams from the little-known Porcupine Expedition. Charles Wyville Thomson led deep-sea dredging expeditions with HMS Lightning and HMS Porcupine in 1868, 1869 and 1870 that found all marine invertebrate groups present at 650 fathoms and found temperature variations that indicated oceanic circulation. These results prompted the global expedition by HMS Challenger that started in 1872.

Kit BrownleeKit Brownlee

Kit Brownlee’s exhibitKit Brownlee’s exhibit

Kit Brownlee’s slidesKit Brownlee’s other slides

Danny Ferri showed a remote-controlled lamp with 5 LEDs, at the four corners and centre of a square, that might be useful for Rheinberg illumination.

Danny FerriDanny Ferri

Danny also brought a polarising epi-illumination attachment, complete with objectives, for a Zeiss Photomicroscope or Universal.

Zeiss polarising epi-illumination attachmentZeiss polarising epi-illumination attachment

Dennis Fullwood, as usual, brought several items that he had recently acquired. The largest was a 2-volume set of books, Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles by George R. Else and Mike Edwards, published by the Ray Society.

Dennis FullwoodDennis Fullwood

Dennis also showed two pairs of forceps with extremely fine tips and an assortment of slides that he had recently bought on eBay but not yet had time to examine, with one of the Club’s Zeiss Standard microscopes for viewing them.

Dennis Fullwood’s slidesSome of Dennis Fullwood’s slides

Dennis also showed 2 albums of photographs that Esther Tibbs (widow of Quekett member David Tibbs) had sent him. The photos were taken at meetings at various venues, and the albums will be added to the Club’s archives.

David Tibbs’ photo albumDavid Tibbs’ photo album

Phil Greaves introduced himself with “My name is Phil and I am an eBay-aholic” and showed a large ground section of a coal ball, sadly with no information about locality and too thick to view with a transmitted-light compound microscope.

Phil GreavesPhil Greaves

Phil also brought some normal-sized slides of coal balls by Lomax that we could examine under his Swift FM-31 portable microscope, and a relevant book History of palaeobotany: Selected essays edited by A. J. Bowden, C. V. Burek & R. Wilding, published by the Geological Society.

Phil Greaves’ exhibitPhil Greaves’ exhibit

Phil also brought 3 books destined for the Club’s library, Beyond extreme close-up photography by Julian Cremona, Essentials of polarized light microscopy and ancillary techniques by John Gustav Delly, and An Illustrated Guide to Freshwater Ciliates from Australia by David Seamer.

Pam Hamer has recently bought 2 small microscopes from Brunel Microscopes to use at outreach events attended by children, and she showed an Apex compound microscope with 4×, 10× and 40× objectives. The two lower power objectives work fine, but the image from 40× is spoiled by refraction caused by the small single LED; the image could be improved by a diffuser made from a ping-pong ball, providing a larger light source.

Pam HamerPam Hamer

Pam Hamer’s exhibitPam Hamer’s exhibit

Pam also showed a Water Based Slide Mountant from Cosmos Biomedical that is suitable for mounting specimens direct from water and is based on Lubkin & Carsten’s formula. Its refractive index is about 1.4, and Pam showed a diatom slide made using it. An RI of more than 1.5 is usually recommended for diatoms, but it seems to be the difference from 1.5 that is important, not the direction. She also brought a book Safe microscopic techniques for amateurs: Slide mounting by Walter Dioni, and a nice calcite rhombus for demonstrating double refraction and the effect of polarisers.

Grenham Ireland used the Club’s Meiji stereomicroscope to show some large (about 1 mm) green ciliates that had puzzled him when he first saw them in his pond. Investigation suggested that they are Spirostomum semivirescens. Grenham has also found similar but colourless ciliates in the pond of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society.

Grenham IrelandGrenham Ireland

Grenham Ireland’s exhibitGrenham Ireland’s exhibit

Irma Irsara showed a foldable spotlight that could be used with a stereomicroscope.

Irma IrsaraIrma Irsara

Foldable SpotlightFoldable Spotlight

Graham Matthews brought 2 books of drawings and notes by David Seamer: An Illustrated Guide to the Freshwater Amoebae and An Illustrated Guide to the Freshwater Flagellates. Although the examples are from Australia, the books are used by microscopists all over the world.

Graham MatthewsGraham Matthews

Graham has been exploring leaf litter in Warnham Local Nature Reserve using a home-made Tullgren funnel, and showed photomicrographs of some of the invertebrates that he has found.

Graham Matthews’ exhibitGraham Matthews’ exhibit

Jacky McPherson participated in the workshop on preparing crystal slides in November 2018 and took home the slides that she made and several others that people had left behind. The chemicals included copper sulfate, menthol, quinine disulfate, stearic acid, urea and vitamin C. Jacky has been practising with crossed polarisers and a ¼ wave plate on her Zeiss Standard with Planapo 4× objective, and taking photographs with her Canon EOS M3. The photos are intended for inclusion in collaged artworks, and Jacky showed them in a slideshow on a tablet.

Jacky McPhersonJacky McPherson

Jacky also showed a very bright square LED that her husband had wired up with an on/off switch. Part of the surface is masked off, leaving a bright circle as a background for photographing slides.

Jacky McPherson’s exhibitJacky McPherson’s exhibit

Maurice Moss brought several Magic Eye 3D images that he had cut from a newspaper several years ago and showed us how to view the images.

Maurice MossMaurice Moss

You can see and try lots of these pictures on the Magic Eye website.

Magic Eye 3D picturesMagic Eye 3D pictures

Stephen Parker brought along several slides of liver flukes and tapeworms that had belonged to Brian Bracegirdle and that he had won in the 2018 auction for Quekett members.

Stephen ParkerStephen Parker

For viewing the slides, Stephen provided his own Newton Nm1 portable microscope and the Club’s GX stereomicroscope.

Stephen Parker’s exhibitStephen Parker’s exhibit

Some of the slides were labelled with just a large letter, suggesting that they were part of A-level examination sets. Stephen brought a copy of Brian’s book An atlas of invertebrate structure, and Jacky noticed that some of Stephen’s slides were used in the illustrations.

Stephen Parker’s slidesSome of Stephen Parker’s slides

Newton NM1 portable microscopeNewton Nm1 portable microscope

David Roberts showed something that was new to most of us, a hair tube trap. This is a baited tube with some adhesive inside that catches a few hairs when a mammal enters; by identifying the hairs under a microscope, the mammals can be identified without harming them.

David RobertsDavid Roberts

David also brought a set of hair reference slides that he had made, and a reference book, Hair of West European Mammals: Atlas and Identification Key by B. J. Teerink.

Hair tube trap and hair reference slidesHair tube trap and hair reference slides

Paul Smith brought 2 items, including an unusual (and not very good) portable microscope.

Paul SmithPaul Smith

Paul’s second item was a piece of peacock ore that he had purchased in the Natural History Museum. This is a copper ore, also known as bornite, that when tarnished shows a range of iridescent colours.

Peacock orePeacock ore

Nigel Williams showed 3 items, including a coffee-table book Plankton: Wonders of the drifting world by Christian Sardet

Nigel WilliamsNigel Williams

Nigel also brought a set of 5 slides by slides by Jh Bourgogne in a case; he got them on eBay and when they arrived he was surprised by their small size.

Slides by BourgogneSmall slides by Jh Bourgogne

Nigel’s third item was a lantern slide of reproduction by fission in the hydroid Schizocladium ramosum.

Lantern slide of Schizocladium ramosumLantern slide of Schizocladium ramosum

Alan Wood brought an adapter for fitting 39 mm diameter condensers to Olympus BH-2 or BX microscopes, which are designed for condensers with a dovetail fitting. It used to belong to Brian Davidson, and Alan acquired it at Microscopium in October 2018.

Adapter for using 39 mm condensers on Olympus BH-2Adapter for using 39 mm condensers on Olympus BH-2 (top view)

Adapter for using 39 mm condensers on Olympus BH-2Adapter for using 39 mm condensers on Olympus BH-2 (bottom view)

Sadly, with a 39 mm Abbe condenser from a Watson Kima and the substage racked all the way up, the top of the condenser is 30 mm below the top of the stage, far too low for proper illumination. However, Alan also acquired a simple low-power condenser at Microscopium, just a lens in a sleeve with no iris, and this works well with an Olympus SPlan FL 2× objective.

Low-power condenser for 39 mm sleeve mountLow-power condenser

It might be possible to make an adapter that fits into the dovetail and holds a normal 36.8 mm, 37 mm or 39 mm condenser higher up, like this one for a Nikon Labophot:

Adapter for 37 mm condensers on Nikon LabophotAdapter for 37 mm condensers on Nikon Labophot [Copyright © iconoclastica]

Report and most photographs by Alan Wood

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