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The Compass Microscope

The microscope illustrated below is an example of the Compass microscope that was probably made by the British designer George Adams around 1745. This popular microscope was about six inches long and was intended to be hand-held while viewing small specimens.

A prominent feature of Compass microscopes is the Lieberkuhn reflector surrounding the eyepiece/objective that allows reflected light to evenly illuminate opaque specimens. Curvature of the reflector is optimized to focus the maximum amount of ambient light onto the specimen surface. Early Compass microscope designs had a major flaw because the limb that held the specimen pivoted in a manner that caused the specimen and the objective to move in an arc with respect to each other during sample focus. This was solved in later models (like the one shown above) by allowing the specimen holder rod to fit into a sleeve, allowing the rod to slide up and down to bring the specimen into view. The compass microscope featured above has a brass body and solid ivory handle, typical of similar microscopes made during this period.


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