Annual Exhibition of Microscopy

Sunday 3rd to Friday 8th October 2021

For the second time, it was not possible to hold the Annual Exhibition in the Natural History Museum because of the COVID-19 epidemic, but this year we were able to hold a face-to-face meeting to show the main exhibits in the Elm Court Youth and Community Centre in Potters Bar (where we held Microscopium in August). We also arranged for lectures and a gossip meeting via Zoom and for additional virtual exhibits on the website.

Members were able to show their exhibits at Potters Bar (with the option of more detail in a web page) or virtually as photographs and text on the website.

You can follow these links to see the virtual exhibits and all of the photomicrographs, videos, slides and artwork:

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Meeting report


Lisa Ashby – When the magic lantern met the microscope

Lisa has two old Watson items designed for attaching to magic lanterns in order to project images of microscope slides. She has some old Watson catalogues with similar items, but has not found an exact match, so she would love to hear from anyone with old Watson catalogues.

Lisa Ashby’s exhibitLisa Ashby’s exhibit

Watson Lantern Microscope (for projecting down onto a table)

Watson Lantern Microscope (for projecting onto a screen)

Lisa also showed some Watson lantern slides of biological specimens and of equipment, lit from behind.

Lisa Ashby’s lantern slidesLisa Ashby’s lantern slides

Lisa and Nigel AshbyLisa and Nigel Ashby [by Robert Ratford]

Nigel Ashby – Photo-micrographic stand

Nigel brought along a large and impressive piece of apparatus that he has designed to be a working model of the Watson Laboratory Photo-Micrographic Apparatus.

Laboratory Photo-Micrographic ApparatusLaboratory Photo-Micrographic Apparatus

He has bought some parts and made others, including a camera carriage, a ground glass screen for the camera, a brass fine focusing arrangement, a swing out baseboard, a base for the microscope, and a connecting flange between the microscope and the camera. It is not quite finished and he would still like to get an aplanatic centering bulls eye condenser with built-in iris, and although the improved belt for the fine focus works it could be refined further.

Nigel Ashby’s exhibitNigel Ashby’s exhibit

Joan Bingley & Graham Matthews – Bird nests project

Joan and Graham have been busy preparing a new citizen science project for Quekett members, examining the structure and invertebrate inhabitants of birds nests. To work out procedures, Joan has examined the nest of a robin from Nuneaton and the nest of a great tit from Cobham and prepared tables of the various components (e.g.  grass, moss, twigs, leaves, animal hairs, fabrics, fibres, plastics and spider web). Graham has been advising on extracting and preserving invertebrates, and has designed a simple Tullgren funnel.

Joan Bingley’s exhibitJoan Bingley’s exhibit

Nest of a great titNest of a great tit

Nest of a robinNest of a robin

Graham Matthews’ Tullgren funnelGraham Matthews’ Tullgren funnel

Gordon Brown & Peter Sunderland – Making permanent slides at speed

Gordon and Peter demonstrated how to make a permanent ringed slide in 15 minutes, something that would be impossible with conventional mountants but can be done with LOCA, a methacrylate resin that can be cured in 60 seconds with UV light.

Gordon started with a slide positioned in a rotating template (that replaces the stage plate of his Olympus SZH10 stereomicroscope) with a few concentric circles. He cut a few lengths of animal hair and placed them in the centre, and then used a glass rod to add 2 drops of LOCA, more mountant than is normally needed. LOCA does not set unless exposed to UV light, so Gordon had almost unlimited time to remove air bubbles with a fine tipped pipette and push the hairs into the centre before lowering the coverslip and pressing it down to squeeze out excess mountant. The process of expelling the excess mountant also helps to remove any remaining small air bubbles. He then put the slide under a UV light unit that is intended for setting gel nail polish for 60 seconds. The next stage is hard to believe, but Gordon dipped the slide in hot soapy water for a few seconds to remove the oily residue that forms on top of set LOCA and then used a stiff toothbrush to scrub off excess mountant! After a final clean with 70% isopropyl alcohol, he passed the slide on to Peter for ringing with Glyptal, an electrical insulating varnish. Peter is a very experienced slide maker and makes ringing the slides on a turntable look simple. He encouraged visitors to have a go at ringing and explained exactly how to do it, but it clearly needs practice.

Gordon Brown and Douglas Downer-SmithGordon Brown (facing camera) and Douglas Downer-Smith

Gordon Brown demonstratingGordon Brown demonstrating

Template for positioning circular coverslipsTemplate for positioning circular coverslips

Peter Sunderland, Chris Thomas, Gordon Brown and Michael HorwoodPeter Sunderland, Chris Thomas, Michael Horwood, Gordon Brown and Danny Ferri

Peter Sunderland and John TollidayPeter Sunderland and John Tolliday

John Tolliday ringing a slideJohn Tolliday ringing a slide

Ringed slidesRinged slides

Stephen Durr – Freshwater specimens

Stephen brought his trinocular Leitz Dialux 20 EB microscope equipped for phase contrast and used a camera connected to a small monitor to show us several freshwater specimens, including Closterium, Hydrodyctyon, Trachelomonas, Spirostomum and various amoebae.

Stephen Durr with his exhibit and Andy JohnsonStephen Durr (left) with his exhibit and Andy Johnston

Mike Gibson – Russian microscope

Mike’s “Little Russian” is a Lomo Biolam С1У42 microscope, excellent example of a “grab and go” scope which is very portable and at the same time versatile, having a variety of attachments and applications. For Mike’s exhibit, the microscope was set up with a rotating stage (for polarizing use) and also a phase contrast condenser and objectives.

Mike was demonstrating reflected light microscopy using a Reichert epi-illuminator that fits his Biolam, with an LED Cree torch as the light source. Mike prefers this to the original Russian epi-illumination kit, and uses it with the ×9 Lomo epi-illumination objective and a normal Vickers ×3 objective.

Mike’s specimens included coins, printed paper, forams and an integrated circuit. He used an eyepiece digital camera to display them on his laptop.

Mike Gibson’s exhibitMike Gibson’s exhibit

Mike Gibson’s specimens for reflected lightMike Gibson’s specimens for reflected light

Steve Gill – Pseudoscorpion Project

Steve was promoting the Quekett’s Survey of British pseudoscorpions project and brought a live specimen that he chased around a Petri dish under a camera attached to a monitor. He also used his laptop to show lots of photographs of pseudoscorpions, and showed a pooter for picking up specimens.

Steve Gill’s exhibitSteve Gill’s exhibit

Display of pseudoscorpion photosDisplay of pseudoscorpion photos

Steve also brought a copy of the Illustrated key to the British false scorpions (pseudoscorpions) by Gerald Legg & Francis Farr-Cox.

Key to British false scorpionsKey to British false scorpions

Phil Greaves – In celebration of brass and glass

Microscope timelines and displays of microscopes by Brian Davidson and Barry Ellam used to be a feature of Quekex. This year, Phil paid homage to them with a display of brass and glass Watson microscopes including a Field portable (their smallest), an early Service and an early Bactil (both showing Watson’s resplendent enamelling and lacquer to their finest), a van Heurck (their largest) and a rather special Watson Edinburgh.

Phil Greaves’ exhibitPhil Greaves’ exhibit

Watson Field portable microscopeWatson Field portable microscope

Phil Greaves’ exhibitPhil Greaves’ exhibit

Watson van Heurck microscopeWatson van Heurck microscope

Pam Hamer – Dust from Mount St Helens

Mount St Helens in Washington State erupted in 1980, and Dick Speight collected ash particles that he later donated to Pam. Crystals of  magnetite, hypersthene, feldspar and quartz were formed in the liquid magma when an explosive eruption coated the crystals with vesicular amorphous glass jackets resulting in these ash particles. Pam used her Vickers polarising microscope to show crystals from the ash that she had mounted on slides, and also brought photographs of the ash particles and the crystals.

Pam Hamer’s exhibitPam Hamer’s exhibit

Jacky McPherson and Pam HamerJacky McPherson and Pam Hamer (right)

Crystal from Mount St Helens dustCrystal from Mount St Helens dust [by Pam Hamer]

Crystal from Mount St Helens dustCrystal from Mount St Helens dust [by Pam Hamer]

Pam Hamer – Digital art?

Pam also provided a virtual exhibit, something members can try out with their children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, etcetera.

Click the arrows to move through the slides. Click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version.

For a previous exhibition, Pam prepared a duck and a Union flag made from layers of colourless Sellotape. When placed on the screen of a computer and covered with a polarising filter, different numbers of layers of Sellotape produce different colours.

Birefringent Sellotape duckBirefringent Sellotape duck

Birefringent Sellotape Union flagBirefringent Sellotape Union flag

Grenham Ireland – ‘Going down the rabbit hole’ with the ctenophore Pleurobrachia pileus! (virtual only)

Andy Johnston – Earwig wings

Andy’s earwig project started when he saw a slide (now in the possession of Peter Sunderland) that Ernie Ives had produced of a whole mounted earwig. He realised that the earwig was upside down. There are illustrations of earwig wings from way back, but Andy could not find any instructions as to how they were achieved. He spent a lot of time during lockdown trying to find a way of opening the wings the right way up, and eventually succeeded. He documented the procedure in his article Opening Earwig Wings for Dry Mounting in the April 2021 issue of Balsam Post. Andy brought his Zeiss Standard microscope so that we could admire his slides.

Andy Johnston’s exhibitAndy Johnston’s exhibit

Photographs of earwigs with wings extendedPhotographs of earwigs with wings extended

Slides of earwigs with wings extendedSlides of earwigs with wings extended

Set specimensSet specimens

Graham Matthews – Eric Marson Award entries

Graham brought the slides and accompanying notes that had been submitted for an Eric Marson Award, together with a Baker Biolux school microscope so that we could admire the slides.

Eric Marson slides displayEric Marson slides display

Graham Matthews – Photographing the Marson

Graham also provided a virtual exhibit, showing how he takes the photographs and photomicrographs of the slides that are submitted for an Eric Marson Award.

Click the arrows to move through the slides. Click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version.

Jacky McPherson – Even beginners can have fun

Jacky’s set up two exhibits, one on polarisation and the other on freshwater life. At Microscopium in August, she bought a Russian MИН10 polarising microscope with a box of accessories and she has been gradually learning how to use it. She displayed some of the photographs that she has taken using crossed polarisers and a quartz wedge, and also had an eyepiece digital camera connected to a laptop computer so that we could look at some of her slides.

Jacky McPherson’s polarisation exhibitJacky McPherson’s polarisation exhibit

Jacky recently bought a Swift-Microtec M100 inverted microscope from Tony Pattinson that is equipped for phase contrast and that he had modified to LED illumination. She displayed photos of some of the specimens that she has found, (taken with her Canon EOS M3 camera) and notes on and photos of her collecting sites. Specimens that she has found include Brachionus, Daphnia, mosquito larvae, Phacus, Rotaria, Spirogyra and maybe a rat-tailed maggot. Jacky brought an assortment of specimens that we could examine using the microscope.

Jacky McPherson’s pond-life exhibitJacky McPherson’s freshwater life exhibit

Jacky McPherson’s sampling sitesOne of Jacky McPherson’s sampling sites

Jacky McPherson and Nigel WilliamsJacky McPherson and Nigel Williams

Stephen Parker – Cooke M4000 ‘Nuclear’ microscope

Stephen exhibited a Cooke, Troughton & Simms (CTS) M4000 ‘Universal’ microscope equipped for the analysis of nuclear emission tracks in photographic film that was made in the early 1950s. The adaptions for nuclear research are a special X/Y measuring stage using micrometers subdivided to 5 microns with a range of movement of 25mm in each direction, and a goniometer eyepiece for measuring angles.

He purchased it from Vaughn & Ven Dodge at the first Microscopium in 2005, when it was usable for incident light but not complete, and over the years has added the parts for reflected light and phase contrast.

For his exhibit, Stephen had equipped the microscope for reflected light so that we could examine various metal specimens and an uncovered coal section that shows up well under incident light. He used a modern Chinese inspection camera to show the output on a monitor.

Stephen Parker and his exhibitStephen Parker (left) with his exhibit and Peter Sunderland

Stephen Parker’s metallurgical samplesSome of Stephen Parker’s metallurgical samples

Quekett Shop

The Quekett shop was there, selling books, ties, badges and USB sticks of the Journal. They also had full-wave, half-wave and quarter-wave retarders that were purchased after visitors saw Alan Wood’s demonstration.

Quekett ShopQuekett Shop

Some books by Quekett members were also available.

Books by Quekett membersBooks by Quekett members

Robert Ratford – Cladocera Project

Robert was promoting the Club’s citizen science Survey of British freshwater Cladocera project, with live specimens that could be examined on compound and stereo microscopes. Robert also had some live rotifers and brine shrimps (Artemia). The microscopes included a Zeiss Universal, a trinocular Vickers, a PZO stereo, and an ioLight portable.

Cladocera Project exhibitCladocera Project exhibit

Robert also brought some excellent photographs of Cladocera.

Cladocera carapaceCladocera carapace

Nigel Williams and Graham MatthewsNigel Williams and Graham Matthews (right) [by Robert Ratford]

Robert Ratford – Vickers Projection Microscope

Robert somehow managed to bring a huge Vickers Projection Microscope with its own desk and lots of accessories

Vickers Projection MicroscopeVickers Projection Microscope

Child’s microscope on stage of Vickers Projection MicroscopeChild’s microscope on stage of Vickers Projection Microscope

Robert Ratford – World Microscope Day

To promote World Microscope Day (13th April), Robert filled a couple of tables with his collection of microscopes for children. Several visitors were heard to exclaim “I had one of those”!

Microscopes for childrenMicroscopes for children

You can see a report of the 2021 World Microscope Day on the Quekett website. Make a note in your diary for 13th April 2022.

Carel Sartory – Playing with polarisation

Carel provided a virtual exhibit, a video showing how he produced the videos that he submitted for a Barnard Award that demonstrate how polarisation colours in crystals vary as the polariser is rotated.

Click the arrow to start the video; click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for a larger version

Click the arrow to start the video; click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for a larger version

Paul Smith – Urban Lichen Project

Part of the activities undertaken by the QMC during the pandemic lockdown was to launch a number of citizen science projects. One of those projects was to observe the occurrence of lichens in the immediate vicinity of those taking part, an activity open to individuals and/or families or other groups – see the Survey of British lichens.

Lichens were to be photographed in situ, and some of the photographs so far received were assembled into the short video which was included in the rolling display inside the exhibition hall. You can watch it here:

Click the arrow to start the video; click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for a larger version

Chris Thomas – Build your own microscope

Chris showed a couple of examples of microscopes constructed from cardboard tubes, and a more sophisticated kit sold by the Science Museum.

Chris Thomas’s exhibitChris Thomas’s exhibit [by Robert Ratford]

Build your own microscopeBuild your own microscope

Science Museum card microscope kitScience Museum card microscope kit

Chris was also promoting another of the Quekett’s citizen science projects, Spotted Wing Drosophila survey experiment 2021.

Penny Thoyts – Tongue

Penny provided a virtual exhibit showing some of her collection of slides of tongues.

Click the arrows to move through the slides. Click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version.

Nigel Williams – Lantern slides of the human body and food adulteration

Nigel brought along about 50 lantern slides, mostly showing parts of the human body plus a few showing food adulterants. He also showed a lantern slide projector borrowed from Steve Gill. He would have liked to project the slides, but the light source is a carbide lamp which is potentially explosive and a serious fire risk.

Nigel Williams’ exhibitNigel Williams’ exhibit

Nigel Williams’ lantern slidesSome of Nigel Williams’ lantern slides

Alan Wood – Commercial and makeshift retarders

Alan Wood’s demonstrationAlan Wood’s demonstration

Alan Wood brought the Olympus full-wave and quarter-wave tint plates (retarders) that fit his BH2-KP intermediate polarising attachment and showed visitors how to compare them with some of his makeshift retarders cut from a variety of plastic films.

Olympus full-wave and quarter-wave tint platesOlympus full-wave and quarter-wave tint plates

Olympus BH2-KP intermediate polarising attachment on a BHT standOlympus BH2-KP polarising attachment with retarder

Makeshift retardersMakeshift retarders

It is easy to rotate the makeshift retarders (assorted plastic films attached to card annuli) because they just sit on the light output in the base of a microscope. The Olympus tint plates cannot be rotated, which limits their use for pictorial effects.

Alan showed photomicrographs taken through crossed polarisers plus various retarders of a thin section of quartz diorite by an unknown mounter, and he demonstrated the effects of the retarders.

Thin section of quartz dioriteThin section of quartz diorite

Quartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus quarter-wave retarderQuartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus Olympus quarter-wave retarder

Quartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus full-wave retarderQuartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus Olympus full-wave retarder

Quartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus makeshift retarderQuartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus makeshift retarder

Quartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus makeshift retarderQuartz diorite, crossed polarisers plus makeshift retarder

Some of the makeshift retarders gave interesting results, but none of them were as spectacular as the Olympus full-wave retarder. The Quekett Shop sells 2-inch squares of full-wave retarder that should provide very similar results to the expensive Olympus version.

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Barnard, Marson and artwork displays

The photomicrographs, videos, slides and artwork that had been submitted for the Annual Exhibition were on display.

Artwork displayArtwork display

Eric Marson slides displayEric Marson slides display

Paul Smith set up rolling displays showing the photomicrographs and the videos.

Rolling displaysRolling displays

Barnard photomicrographs displayBarnard photomicrographs display

Barnard photomicrographs displayBarnard photomicrographs display

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Electron Microscopes in the Garage: a new dimension in home microscopy

Dave Furness presented the first lecture, about his experiences with the scanning and transmission electron microscopes that he has installed in his garage.

Dave FurnessDave Furness

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Surviving the elements: A microscopical study of a remarkably well-preserved 470 million year old shallow marine fossil assemblage from the summit of Mount Qomolangma (Mount Everest)

Owen Green presented the second lecture. Himalayan Palaeozoic rocks from the area surrounding Mount Qomolangma (Mt. Everest) have been dated at 470-million-years-old (early to middle Ordovician) and contain a diverse assemblage of fossils preserved in shallow marine carbonate rich (peloidal limestone, grainstones and calcareous rich siltstones) sediments. The marine fossil assemblage includes fragments of crinoids (sea lilies), trilobites, brachiopods, ostracods, faecal pellets (peloids) and ‘net-like’ structures of possibly bryozoan affinity. Centimetre sized algal thrombolytic-like structures have also been recognised in hand specimen from the carbonate rocks collected in the Rongbuk Valley area. New samples from Everest have been analysed through the application of LM (transmitted and incident), CL and SEM techniques to examine the diversity of the fossil assemblage and the preservation potential of the dominant taxa in these early Palaeozoic rocks which have been subjected to a complex geological history with temperatures more than 350°C and buried to depths of over 5 km before being elevated to a height of 8,848 m.

Owen GreenOwen Green

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Report and most photographs by Alan Wood

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