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Hugh Powell's 1841 Microscope

Hugh Powell produced this microscope in 1841 in response to a request from the Microscopical Society of London, who simultaneously asked for microscopes of similar design from the famous British inventors Andrew Ross and James Smith.

During the next year (1842) Powell formed a partnership with Peter Lealand that became "one of the most famous associations in the history of the microscope". Powell was famous for his solidly built microscopes and this model is certainly no exception. The triangular stand (or foot) is very sturdy, and the body is designed around a single thick pillar combined with a compass joint for inclining the body, a common design motif employed by microscope makers of the period.

Other innovative features of this microscope are the achromatic condenser and the binocular body (this was not part of the original microscope, but was retrofitted in 1862). The Achilles' heel of this microscope is the fine focus mechanism. Instead of moving the microscope body tube with a simple focus mechanism, Powell elected to move the stage with the assistance of inclined planes controlled by a thumbscrew, which did not provide a smooth and jerk-free motion. In addition, the stage moved separately from the condenser, necessitating a readjustment of the condenser after focusing the specimen. This basic microscope design was very successful and popular with scientists and was therefore utilized by Powell and Lealand for the next 50 years.


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