Three 18th-century microscope makers

The important role of instrument makers in the history of science is increasingly being acknowledged. Their practical knowledge is no longer seen as 'inferior' to theoretical knowledge, and in many cases the false distinctions between scientist and artisan have been removed. But instrument makers in the 18th-century had varying degrees of knowledge of natural philosophy. G  Some were involved in the work of scientific societies, some promoted natural knowledge, and some altered their instruments to cope with the demands of their clients. Individual makers sometimes combined several of these activities in their work.

Microscope compendium
Image 1 A microscope compendium by Benjamin Martin; circa 1775. Many different types of microscope could be put together from the parts in a portable case. Image © the Whipple Museum (Wh.1795).

» Henry Baker and John Cuff, pioneers in microscope design. This article discusses the design and popularisation of a type of microscope proposed in 1743 by Henry Baker, a prominent natural philosopher.

» George Lindsay, the King's watchmaker. Lindsay designed an ingenious pocket microscope, which was presented to King George II.

» Benjamin Martin and microscope compendia. These compendia, which contain a full set of microscopical equipment, were popular in the 18th century (Image 1). Martin was one of the most successful instrument makers of his generation, combining an astute business sense with a knowledge of contemporary natural philosophy.

Boris Jardine

Boris Jardine, 'Three 18th-century microscope makers', Explore Whipple Collections, Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge, 2006 [, accessed 12 December 2018]

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