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Bone "Flea" Microscope

Examples of this hand-crafted single-lens early eighteenth century bone microscope are housed in both the Golub and Billings microscope collections.

Microscopes of this design and construction were very common throughout the early 1700s and on through to the late 1800s. The nickname flea microscope was a translation from the Latin term: "microscopium pulicare", because the instrument was principally used to examine small insects such as fleas. Materials used to construct microscopes of this design included bone, ivory, and wood, depending upon availability. The microscope consists of a tubular base (carved to conform to the palm) threaded at the top to accept the cap. A single lens is held very close to the eye and the specimen is mounted on a small vertical pin positioned at a precise distance from the eye lens. Deluxe models contained a hollow cavity in the base in which eye lenses of varying magnification were stored.

BACK TO EIGHTEENTH CENTURY MICROSCOPES

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