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Traces of Spinoza’s Microscope

Nicholas Bion cites Huygens’s “Dioptricks” and the Traces of Spinoza’s Microscope

Stuart Talbot sends me this citation regarding the ground or unground nature of Huygens’ microscope lenses:

Nicholas Bion (c.1650-1733) , Instrument Maker to the French King , The Construction and Principal Uses of Mathematical Instruments, Paris 1709 . transl. Edmund Stone 1758 ( reprint Astragal Press 1995 Mendham NJ USA ISBN 1-879335-60-3 ) Chap IX. p.299 says “Mr. Huygens in his little tract upon microscopes, in his Dioptricks, beginning at page 221, shews how to make the small Glafs Globes for fingle microscopes, by melting powdered Glafs in nthe flame of a Lamp, which will run into various small Globes, and making Choice of such as he found best , which he pout into small round holes, made in a very thin Copper Plate, punched with a Needle, and those he liked best he fixed therein; thus easily making several Micrsopes. The well figuring, and polishing such small Globes, being more owing to Chance than Design”

This certainly argues against Huygens’s widespread use of a ground-lens method, but perhaps not exclusively so. I thank Mr. Talbot for directing my attention to M. Fournier’s article on Huygens’ microscope.

Spinoza’s Microscope?

Interestingly Mr. Talbot in passing raised the possibility that because the Huygenses may have purchased microscopes in the Spinoza estate (they are listed as vergrootglazen in the advertisement) one has to ask whether elements of these microscope designs, as bought, were involved in Huygens’ new microscope. This is not something I had directly considered, focusing more on the possible transmission of Spinoza’s lens-grinding techniques. In thinking about this, because the distinct innovation that Christiaan is credited with is the “enclosing of the [fluid] preperation between a tiny disk of glass and mica” one has also to wonder if this, or even the double-frame aspect of construction, was something that may have been part of the Spinoza vergrootglazen

If such design traces exist, they would be found in the illustration below:

Traces of Spinozas Microscope?

Traces of Spinoza's Microscope?

 As strained a thought investigation as this may be, these are questions worth pondering. The barrel “condenser”, a restriction of the specimen’s lighting, seems to be certainly of Hartsoeker’s input (later to be reduced to a mere diaphragm in the metal piece). Van Leeuwenhoeks trademark specimen post is here made into the frame stanchion, whose proximity to the lens is controlled by the lower screw. The specimen carrier is placed to the inside of frame G, marked EE.

If indeed, as I and others suspect, the Huygenses were the purchasers at Spinoza’s estate, we have the acquisition of three kinds of microscopes by Christiaan Huygens in the 6 months prior to the sketch above:

Spinoza’s microscopes in early November 1667

Hartsoeker’s two microscopes (of wood and brass) in mid March 1668.

Musschenbroek’s microscope had been ordered as testified in a letter to his brother dated 26 March 1668.

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