The aquatic microscope is a simple low-power instrument so designed that the lens can move back and forth and from side to side, to follow the movements of small creatures swimming on the stage. The form was developed in the mid-1740s by a London artisan named John Cuff, at the behest of a Swiss naturalist named Abraham Trembley. This example fits into and stands on a wooden case covered with sharkskin. The inscription on the stage reads “I. CUFF Londini Inv. & Fec.” There are six lenses (# 1, 2, 3, and 4, and two unmarked), some brass slides and some bone slides.

In 1752, Cuff modified the microscope for the naturalist, John Ellis, and Ellis included an explanation and illustration of that instrument in his popular Essay Towards a Natural History of the Corallines (London, 1755). That instrument, known as “Ellis’s aquatic microscope” and made by others, remained popular for years.

Ref: Savile Bradbury, The Evolution of the Microscope (Oxford, 1967), pp. 97-98.

Julian Holland, "John Cuff (1707?-after 1772: 'the best Workman of his Trade in London'," Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society 141 (2019): 2-14; and 142 (2019): 4-18.

Deborah Warner, "The Oldest Microscope in the Museum," https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/microscope

Date Made: 1745-1755

Maker: Cuff, John

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United Kingdom: England, London

Subject: MedicineMicroscopy


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Medicine, Microscopes, Science & Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: MG.M-09898Catalog Number: M-9898Accession Number: 237347

Object Name: microscopeOther Terms: microscope; Medicine

Physical Description: wood (case material)brass (microscope material)glass (microscope material)velvet (case material)Measurements: microscope: 12.4 cm x 6 cm x 7.7 cm; 4 7/8 in x 2 3/8 in x 3 1/16 incase: 4.7 cm x 22.4 cm x 13.8 cm; 1 7/8 in x 8 13/16 in x 5 7/16 in

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a5-79a6-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_728049

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