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Compound microscope, London, England, 1863-1866

Dr Henry Sutton, a physician, was presented with this compound microscope for his work in the cholera wards of the London Hospital. Cholera epidemics spread across Europe and the rest of the world for much of the 1800s. In 1883, Robert Koch identified the cause of cholera as a bacteria he named Vibrio cholera. Many physicians such as Henry Sutton did not accept the germ theory of disease as the sole cause of cholera. Sutton preferred a theory of multiple causes that included environment, cleanliness and diet. The brass microscope was made by Smith, Beck and Beck, optical instrument makers based in London.

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Glossary: epidemic

A sudden widespread occurance of an infection with high numbers of people affected.

Glossary: cholera

A severe infection of the small intestine commonly contracted through eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, leading to dehydration, which can be fatal.

Glossary: bacteria

Micro-organisms which can cause disease but have an important role in global ecology.

Glossary: compound microscope

Microscope with multiple optical elements (lenses/mirrors). It has two microscopes in series, the first serving as the ocular lens (close to the eye) and the second serving as the objective lens (close to the object to be viewed).

Glossary: germ theory

The theory that germs cause disease, often by infection through the air. The germ theory was formally proven by Robert Koch in 1875.