100 Years – 100 Objects: Monocular Compound Scope

January 27, 2009

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Lisa Rebori, the museum’s Vice President of Collections. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent our Museum’s history, and our collections of historical technologies, that we’ll be sharing here – and on hmns.org – throughout the year.

English, ca. 1820
HMNS #138
Museum purchase made possible with the support of the Junior League of Houston, Inc., 1990.

During the 17th and the first quarter of the 18th century, microscopes were made of wood, ivory and layers of paper covered with leather, vellum or fish skin, such as stingray. By the early 19th century, better microscopes were made almost entirely of brass.

This is a lacquered brass scope that is based on a design by Benjamin Martin, a teacher and instrument maker from the 1760s. This scope was designed to be portable and comes in a fitted wooden box with a variety of eye pieces and lenses to allow for various degrees of magnification. 

A feature of this type of scope is the freedom allowed to move the specimen being viewed.  [The item being viewed is held in place in the stage area by tweezers (shown below) or mounted to a slide.] This type of scope also provides increased illumination. The lens on the left is adjustable and works in combination with the mirror at the bottom, to focus light to the stage of the microscope.

Optical focus is achieved with a rack and pinion mechanism that moves the barrel up and down the pillar by means of the knob on the side.  Instrument makers had to have knowledge of optics, in addition to mechanics.

Check back soon for more of the 100 most compelling objects from the museum’s collections – we’ll be posting the series throughout 2009 as we celebrate a centennial of science in Houston.

Authored By Steven Cowan

Steven never dreamed his first job out of college would be in public relations, and on top of that working for one of the top museums in the country. After all, he majored in History at Vassar College. Within three months of graduation, he landed a spot in the PR department and has not looked back since. He is fast becoming a communications fanatic, spending a tremendous amount of his time promoting the museum and all it has to offer.

Comments are closed.

Become An HMNS Member

With a membership level for everyone; Don't just read about it, see it.

View All Membership Levels

Editor's Picks Lou The Corpse Flower : Why He Smells So Bad And Why We Should Be Excited When He Blooms Wait Just A Minute! Let’s Take A Second To Talk About the Origin Of Time Keeping. The Krak Des Chevaliers: A Tough Nut To Krak Polar Dinosaurs Are Real And They Are More Adorable Than Elves Gosh that Corpse Looks Delicious: The Disturbing World of the Medieval Apothecary Hurricane Harvey Update
Follow And Subscribe

Equally Interesting Posts

HMNS at Hermann Park

5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Houston,Texas 77030
(713) 639-4629

Get Directions Offering varies by location
HMNS at Sugar Land

13016 University Blvd.
Sugar Land, Texas 77479
(281) 313-2277

Get Directions Offering varies by location
George Observatory

21901 FM 762 Rd.
Needville, Texas 77461
(281) 242-3055

Tuesday - Saturday By Reservation
Saturdays 3:00PM - 10:00PM
Saturdays (DST) 3:00PM - 11:00PM
DST = Daylight Savings Time.
Please call for holiday hours. Entry to Brazos Bend State Park ends at 9:30 p.m. daily
Get Directions Offering varies by location

Stay in the know. Join our mailing list.