East of England Meeting

Saturday 26th October 2019

Dave Skeet organised his second joint meeting of the Eastern Counties Microscopy Study Group and the Iceni Microscopy Study Group, and it was a great success with lots of interesting displays and lots of enthusiastic microscopists, despite the heavy rain. The event was held in the Village Hall in Bradfield St George in Suffolk, with exhibits and sales in the morning, followed by lunch and then presentations in the afternoon. There was coffee, tea and biscuits ready for us when we arrived.

Exhibits and sales

Joan Bingley has bought one of the inspection microscopes that we first saw at New Scientist Live, and she used it to show images of acrocarp and pleurocarp mosses from her garden on her Samsung tablet. Joan also showed some photographs of mosses taken by Mike Crutchley.

Joan Bingley’s exhibitJoan Bingley’s exhibit

Joan also brought a recently-published book, Cambridgeshire’s Mosses & Liverworts – a dynamic flora by C. D. Preston & M. O. Hill.

Gordon Brown brought his polarising Zeiss Universal (one of those bequeathed to Quekett members by Alastair Smith) that he has modified to use LED illumination, fitted with an Eakins digital camera and 0.5× reducing lens (from AliExpress) feeding images to a pair of monitors.

Gordon Brown and Michael WolfsonGordon Brown and Michael Wolfson (right)

Gordon Brown and Alison EllamGordon Brown and Alison Ellam

Gordon’s specimens included 2 drawers of slides from the estate of Harold Hillman, purchased at Microscopium earlier in the month.

Harold Hillman’s slidesDrawer of Harold Hillman’s slides

Gordon was also offering for sale new slides, coverslips and bulbs, and a used Meiji EMT stereomicroscope with built-in top and bottom lighting and 20× and 40× magnification.

Meiji EMT stereomicroscopeMeiji EMT stereomicroscope

Gordon also brought the Nikon Labophot 2 that he recently showed on Facebook, equipped for polarisation, phase contrast and dispersion staining and once used for identifying asbestos fibres.

Ron Cushing brought 4 mounted prints, photomicrographs of vitamin C crystals taken with with crossed polarisers.

Ron Cushing’s photomicrographs of vitamin CRon Cushing’s photomicrographs of vitamin C

Steve Durr brought his binocular Zeiss Standard microscope with a small digital camera fitted to an adapter in one of the eyepiece tubes, feeding images to a monitor. Steve operated the camera from its remote control, and used a variety of slides.

Steve Durr’s exhibitSteve Durr’s exhibit

Barry Ellam came with his daughters Alison and Kate and was selling some microscopes, assorted objectives, eyepieces and condensers, empty slide boxes, boxes of slides, and individual slides at 40p. each or three for £1. The microscopes included a Watson Service, a J. Swift & Son polarising microscope, a Bausch & Lomb binocular microscope, a Spencer monocular microscope, a brass J. Swift & Son binocular microscope (Wenham ?), a metallurgical Beck Massive microscope, Baker and Watson binocular heads, a PZO phase contrast outfit, and a Baker stereomicroscope.

Peter Sunderland and Barry EllamPeter Sunderland and Barry Ellam (right)

Chris Thomas, Michael Wolfson, Ron Cushing and Barry EllamChris Thomas, Michael Wolfson, Ron Cushing and Barry Ellam (right)

Barry Ellam’s objectivesBarry Ellam’s objectives

Barry Ellam’s microscopesSome of Barry Ellam’s microscopes

Mo VaughanMo Vaughan examining Barry Ellam’s  slides

John GregoryJohn Gregory with Barry Ellam’s slides

Mike Gibson used his Leitz SM-LUX microscope to show acetate peels of leaf epidermis that he has made, and he was explaining how to make the peels with colourless nail varnish, and handing out instructions. Mike used an eyepiece camera to show images on his laptop computer, and had a brochure and instructions for the SM-LUX.

Margaret Gillham with Mike GibsonMargaret Gillham with Mike Gibson

John Gregory brought a selection of the slides that he has made, and provided a monocular Wild M11 and a Kyowa SD-2PL stereomicroscope so that we could examine them.

John Gregory’s exhibitJohn Gregory’s exhibit

John Gregory’s slidesSome of John Gregory’s slides

Michael Horwood only started in microscopy a few months ago, but he is already keeping a journal with his observations and photomicrographs. He had lots of questions, so he was in the right place, a room full of helpful microscopists.

Michael Horwood’s photomicrographOne of Michael Horwood’s photomicrographs in his journal

Andy Johnston has been trying to mount and examine the wings of earwigs, which fold up as soon as you let go of them. Andy provided detailed notes and photographs showing how he managed to stick an earwig to a slide with gum Arabic, and then use a glass seeker, forceps and a small brush to open the wings and keep them flat on wet glass. He also showed a drawing and a folded paper model of a wing. Andy also brought a book, How do insects fold and unfold their wings? by Robin Wootton.

Steve Durr, Andy Johnston and John RhodesSteve Durr, Andy Johnston (centre) and John Rhodes

Andy Johnston’s exhibitAndy Johnston’s exhibit

Earwig with wings spreadEarwig with wings spread

Chris Kennedy had two microscopes and a lamp (binocular Nikon Labophot 2, Olympus VMF 40× stereomicroscope and Photonics PL1000 fibre optic) for sale to raise funds for the RMS Schools Microscope Fund. Chris also had original brochures and instructions for the equipment.

Chris Kennedy and Mike GibsonChris Kennedy and Mike Gibson (right)

Chris KennedyChris Kennedy [by Robert Ratford]

Tim Newton was demonstrating and selling 2 microscopes, a binocular Nikon S and a binocular Swift PhaseMaster.

Tim Newton and Ron CushingTim Newton and Ron Cushing (right)

Brian Norman has been experiencing problems with air bubbles in the slides that he makes, and has found that a vacuum chamber can help. He uses it to remove bubbles from a mixture of Canada balsam and Histoclear before it is used, and again after making the slide. Brian brought his slides of bee and insect wings and a trinocular PZO microscope so that we could see how successful his technique is.

Brian Norman’s exhibitBrian Norman’s exhibit

Brian also had a couple of items for sale, an uncommon Olympus DM-II dissecting microscope with 10× lens and plastic case, and a binocular Lomo microscope.

Olympus DM-II dissecting microscopeOlympus DM-II dissecting microscope

Stephen Parker brought an Olympus BHMJ metallurgical microscope with a set of Neo (brightfield/darkfield) objectives and some unlabelled injected tissue slides to demonstrate the effects of the 2 lighting methods. He also brought a Leica EZ4D stereomicroscope and a set of slides of volcanic dust, including some from the Mount St Helens eruption.

Stephen Parker’s exhibitStephen Parker’s exhibit

Robert Ratford brought 3 items. One was a James Swift polarising microscope fitted with an Eakins digital camera and 0.5× reducing lens (the same as used by Gordon Brown), sending images via an HDMI cable to a monitor.

James Swift polarising microscopeJames Swift polarising microscope

The second was the 1 mm model of the ioLight portable microscope sending images wirelessly to an iPad. The microscope is capable of resolving the same amount of detail as an optical microscope with a ×40 objective. The width of the iPad screen was 160 mm, and the field of view was 1 mm, so the magnification on the screen was ×160.

ioLight portable microscopeioLight portable microscope

Robert’s third item was a Nikkei N46HF USB Digital Microscope, displaying images of printed material on a laptop computer running Micro-Capture software.

Nikkei USB Digital MicroscopeNikkei USB Digital Microscope

Robert also brought a pile of copies of Brian Bracegirdle’s book The Quekett Microscopical Club 1865–2015 to give away.

The Quekett Microscopical Club 1865–2015The Quekett Microscopical Club 1865–2015

John Rhodes brought a collection of slides made by D. H. Laycock that we could admire under his Olympus VM stereomicroscope. Douglas H. Laycock was a Quekett and PMS member who lived in Yorkshire and wrote articles, often about lighting, in the Balsam Post in the early 2000s.

Peter Bracey with John Rhodes’ exhibitPeter Bracey with John Rhodes’ exhibit

Stephen EdlerStephen Edler with John Rhodes’ exhibit [by Robert Ratford]

Slides made by D. H. LaycockSlides made by D. H. Laycock

Dave Skeet explained how to measure the numerical aperture of an objective using a Cheshire’s apertometer mounted on a 3″×1″ slide, a microscope and a phase telescope. He brought apertometers suitable for dry and for immersion objectives and notes on how to use them.

Dave Skeet’s exhibitDave Skeet’s exhibit

Cheshire’s apertometerCheshire’s apertometer

If you would like to make your own Cheshire’s apertometer, there is a template for printing and a guide to the correct size in an article by Dushan Grujich in Micscape Magazine, Measuring NA of the microscope objective.

Lewis Woolnough brought some slides of fibres that he had made and that we could examine under his American Optical AO150 microscope, and a laptop computer with some photomicrographs of fibres taken with crossed polarisers and a retarder. Lewis also brought a jig for arranging fibres before mounting them, and detailed notes on how to prepare temporary and permanent mounts.

Lewis Woolnough’s exhibitLewis Woolnough’s exhibit

Jig for arranging fibresJig for arranging fibres


After a busy morning catching up with old friends, browsing exhibits and choosing which bargains to buy, we were all ready for lunch. Lynn Cardale served up a chicken, mozzarella and tomato bake (or a vegetarian alternative) with mashed potato, carrots and peas. For dessert we had a choice of Black Forest brownies, pear and ginger brioche tart, or fruit salad and cream.

LunchLunch in the Village Hall


After lunch, Dave Skeet presented bouquets of flowers to Lynn and her helper, and Chris Thomas thanked Dave for arranging the meeting.

Dave also let us know that someone in the USA has a large Gillett & Sibert microscope that is free to anyone in the UK willing to pay the postage.

Joan Bingley then presented certificates to 3 people who had not been able to attend the Quekett’s Annual Exhibition of Microscopy on 5th October, Chris Thomas for his artwork and John Rhodes and Lewis Woolnough for their slides.

Chris Thomas receiving his artwork certificate from Joan BingleyChris Thomas receiving his artwork certificate from Joan Bingley

John Rhodes receiving his Eric Marson certificate from Joan BingleyJohn Rhodes receiving his Eric Marson certificate from Joan Bingley

Lewis Woolnough receiving his Eric Marson certificate from Joan BingleyLewis Woolnough receiving his Eric Marson certificate from Joan Bingley


The first presentation was by Robert Ratford, entitled “Wood sections: a tribute to Ernie Ives”, with extracts from Ernie’s CD “A Guide to Wood Microtomy” and lots of photomicrographs (by Steve Durr) of Ernie’s  slides of wood sections.

Robert Ratford’s presentationRobert Ratford’s presentation

Two wood-section slides by Ernie IvesSlides made by Ernie Ives, with safranin-stained sections of Tectona grandis Lf. and Magnolia grandiflora L.

Wood from teak (Tectona grandis)Tangential section of wood from teak (Tectona grandis L.f.), stained with safranin, slide by Ernie Ives, 10× objective

The Quekett has a gossip meeting on “Slides by Ernie Ives” on Tuesday 11th August 2020 in the Natural History Museum.

Robert then gave a second presentation explaining why live blood analysis is not capable of diagnosing cancer, vitamin deficiencies, Lyme disease or any of the other ailments claimed by its practitioners, who aim to make money by selling ineffective nutritional supplements.

The second presenter was Chris Thomas, who has an interest in mammoth hair and was recently asked to help identify hair from a soil core obtained in South Carolina, using just some poor photographs. After requesting better photographs and some scanning electron micrographs, Chris found that the hair had a medulla and so was not from a mammoth. The structure and cross-section suggested a deer, perhaps a red deer.

To help with identification, Chris used a reference book Hair and Fur Atlas of Central European Mammals by Mária Tóth.

Chris Thomas’s presentationChris Thomas’s presentation

The meeting ended with more coffee, tea and biscuits before we packed away the tables and chairs and ventured out into the wind and rain.

Lynn CardaleLynn Cardale


Our thanks to Dave Skeet for organising the meeting, to Lynn Cardale for providing tea, coffee, biscuits, cake and lunch, and to the people who put out and put away the tables and chairs.

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 most photographs by Alan Wood

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