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Powell and Lealand Iron Stand Microscope

Originally described as the Last Powell Iron Stand by Edward Milles Nelson, a famous British microscopist and former President of the Royal Microscopical Society, the Powell and Lealand monocular, compound microscope was commissioned in 1911 for Augustus Alfred Cornwallis Eliot Merlin.

Merlin, who was an enthusiastic microscopist, Society Fellow, and the British Consulate to Volo, Greece, bequeathed the optical instrument to the Royal Microscopical Society for its collection. The model illustrated above was redrawn from photographs of the original microscope, which was described by Gerard Turner in his book The Great Age of the Microscope.

Rather than one of the skilled craftsmen employed in his firm, another instrument maker, Thomas Powell, built Merlin's monocular microscope. Powell, who was Hugh Powell's son and successor, oversaw the making of the classic Powell and Lealand microscopes until the end of his relatively long life in 1925. An unusual feature of the brass and iron compound microscope is a stage design with the front cut away. Nelson favored the stage modification on his microscopes so that he could tilt a glass slide easily with one finger towards an objective and estimate its working distance. With his innovation, Nelson claimed in his note Powell's Iron Microscope, (published in the Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1899) that he could quickly focus even a 1/12-inch oil immersion objective with the coarse focus alone.

Notably, the stand, which was painted a very dark green with flecks of gold, was the last of the Powell iron stands ever produced. The microscope was fitted with a Huygenian eyepiece and a signed, one-inch objective. Below the modified stage, a collar for holding a condenser is inscribed: "Nelson's Low Power Condenser. C. Baker 244, High Holborn. London.". The body tube moves by rack mechanism inside a cylinder, which is attached to the limb, and the plano-concave mirror is on a sliding tube. The microscope is signed "Powell and Lealand London 1911."


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