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Simple microtome and razor, England, 1865-1900

This simple type of microtome was invented by Richard Beck, a microscope maker, sometime before 1865. This is one of the few remaining examples. The animal or plant tissue to be sliced is placed on the brass cylindrical well, which can be moved up and down. The specimen is cut by an ordinary razor, operated by hand, sliding upon the flat top surface. Sliced samples were then prepared on slides, stained and studied under the microscope. The user had to hold the microtome carefully in one hand and the razor in the other to prevent the razor slipping dangerously. The razor, made by a Sheffield firm Joseph Rogers & Son, may have been made at an earlier date.

Object number:

1876-1131

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The study of the structure of tissues by means of special staining techniques combined with light and electron microscopy.

Glossary: razor

Sharp-edged instruments primarily used in the shaving of bodily hair. Razors can be manually or electrically powered, and the earliest bronze razor blade dates back to the Bronze Age.

Glossary: microscopy

The use of microscopes to study objects or samples. The three major types of microscopy are optical, electron and scanning probe microscopy.

Glossary: microtome

An instrument used to cut thin sections of biological material so that they can be examined under a microscope.