The Bausch and Lomb Microscope at SU (late 1800s)

By Jordan Cummings

Throughout the history of biological studies at Southwestern University, the microscope has provided students with a vital tool to observe microscopic subjects when the bare human eye couldn’t. In this case study we will be observing this early 1900s era Bausch & Lomb microscope by using the whiggism methodological approach. By using the whiggism methodological approach we will be able to intemperate this instrument with our present-day perspectives. We will review the importance of the biological sciences and the contributions of this scientific instrument. We will also observe how this microscope earned its place in the history of the Southwestern Biology department. We will look into the history of Bausch & Lomb and understand how and why Southwestern University chose this microscope. Then we will observe the importance of this microscope to the students’ academic experience at Southwestern.

To understand the importance of this scientific tool we must understand the subject that this tool falls in. The study of Biological sciences has contributed to the greater good of humanity by granting us the opportunity to seek further then our eye can see to understand advancements in medical and environmental phenomena. Since the creation of the microscope, academics and scientists have been able to observe objects that the bare human eye cannot see. This instrument provided scientists the ability to comprehend the results from their experiments by having the advantage over their normal vision. The microscope also granted academics and medical studies the ability to explain biological phenomena and methods. This instrument resulted in an increased spread of academic and medical progress by allowing people to physically observe biological advancements in depth.

This instrument allowed students to visually experience discoveries and learn concepts that will guide them to comprehend the theories being taught. This instrument contributes to the education of elementary school introduction to biological studies. Supporting this, Susan Green and Julian Smith III describes in their article Small Things Draw Big Interest, “We introduced microscopy to third-grade classes. As a result, students have shown more interest in science and their grades have improved”[1]. This evidence helps us determine that the microscope have been proven to contribute to an increase in interest from elementary students for biological sciences. Like the elementary students, students at the university level have proven that microscopes are essential to progress in biological sciences at their level. James Strick states an example of microscopes being critical in his book Wilhelm Reich Biologist, “Reich stressed that what high magnifications were critical from was not distinguishing fine details of structure, but rather for being able to see details of movements clearly enough to distinguish”[2]. With this evidence we can come to a determination that the power of the microscope has proven to help biologists at the university level study new concepts and methods. Therefore, the microscope has brought a lasting impact from elementary level to university level studies in biology.

Now that we have come to understanding on the importance of the fields this magnificent tool has taken part in, we can now observe the microscope itself and its purpose. Once the microscope was only for the labs of the scientist, but this simple constructed tool has become marketed and mass-produced so the public can participate in biological studies. Public participation in the biological sciences has made it possible for the public to investigate phenomena themselves. The microscope communicates knowledge of the biological sciences by providing both the scientists and the public the ability to understand their environment and themselves. An example of how scientists used the microscope to understand their environment and themselves in the book Seven Under the Microscope by Kristin Johannsen when she stated, “They’re almost beautiful as they slowly drift along with these dazzling, transparent shapes beneath the lens of a microscope”[3]. Since the microscope is a mass-produced scientific tool, it has become common that academic institutions implement this instrument to communicate scientific methods and theories to students who wish to pursue the scientific field.

The relationship between the experts and the public is the microscope itself. The microscope allows the public with little scientific experience to observe items just the same as experienced scientists. Agusti Nieto-Galan states in his book Science in the Public Sphere, “Curious people enthusiastically waiting to view spectacular physics or chemistry experiments”[4]. Which provides both scientific professions and pubic the ability to investigate phenomena.

The people that are involved in this communication between biological scientists and the public are those who market microscopes. The microscope industry mass produces microscopes to the public that are similar to the microscopic instruments that those in the scientific professions use to research their methods. Henceforth, the simplicity of the microscope has allowed itself to be mass-produced. Which allowed scientists to better communicate their theories and methods behind biological phenomena to the public. Henceforth, we can understand the microscope and its purpose.

Now that we have come to the understanding of the microscope and its purpose to academia. We can now observe Bausch & Lomb and their history of creating quality microscopes. Which will then lead us to our next step of this journey to understand why Southwestern chose this scientific tool and observe this antique artifact’s distinctions that made this microscope the scientific tool of choice by the faculty and students at Southwestern University.

In 1853, a 23-year-old German immigrant John Jacob Bausch with 2 years of experience as an optical lens grinder in Switzerland, established a little optical equipment shop of his own in Rochester, New York. As he needed more capital to continue his Business, Bausch acquired an investment of $60 from his friend, Henry Lomb. In return Bausch made a commitment that if his small business flourished, Lomb would then become a full partner. As the business flourished so did the partnership. In the adolescence of the partnership the main product that the business produced was a state-of-the-art eyeglass frame that was constructed of rubber. Other miniscule products that were sold ranged from a variety of optical marchandise that were made to a high standard of precision engenuity. By the 1890s, the growing company had begun a revolutionary product change by developing and manufacturing optical products such as binoculars, microscopes, lenses for spectacles and telescopes. Supporting this John Simkin states in his newsletter titled John Jacob Bausch,“In 1876 the company began manufacturing microscopes. Later that year the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company won a distinction at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition”[5]. Though the company reached new markets, they still maintained their reputation for high quality optical merchandise. To better understand the pride and assurance the company had in their products the Bausch & Lomb website states in their company information page, “In the 1900’s, Bausch + Lomb continued to demonstrate its place at the forefront of technological innovation for optical products. Bausch + Lomb produced the first optical quality glass made in America, developed ground-breaking sunglasses for the military in World War I, and created the lenses used on the cameras that took the first satellite pictures of the moon”[6]. Based on the evidence we can come to a determination that the Bausch & Lomb company has built an exceptional reputation for precision optical devices. Which would make their optical products such as their microscope a high-quality tool for science exploration and education.

Now that we understand the history of the Bausch & Lomb company and its reputation of precision manufactured optical products. We can now move further and observe this early 20th century microscope and how it was applied to Southwestern University. To observe how this instrument assisted students in pursuing biological studies at Southwestern, we will look at the Biology department course catalog from 1903 to 1912. These course catalog’s will provide us where this tool was located and who was responsible for its existence at the university. As we look into this catalog, we can identify that the biology department that was instructed by Professor Tinsley, required instruments that provided students the ability to study offered courses such as zoology and botany. According to the catalog, the zoology course states, “In Zoology types of the different order are studied, going into their habits, characteristics, and anatomy”[7]. As we can see the zoology course requires the study of an anatomy of an animal which requires an instrument such as this Bausch & Lomb microscope to observe microscopic organs and veins. Though many of the scientific lectures were taken part in classrooms, the application of the studies of biology was conducted in the biological laboratory. Located in the first two rooms on the first floor of the main university building, the biological laboratory had plenty of accessible scientific tools that provided the students the ability to apply what they have learned in their lectures. To describe these tools, the 1903-1912 course cataloged states, “Sufficient sets of dissecting instruments, tripod magnifiers, and a number of modern compound microscopes are on hand”[8]. Therefore, we can determine that this Bausch & Lomb microscope and others like it were in this biological laboratory providing students the ability to dissect and observe small objects such as microscopic plant and animal anatomy. Also, Professor Tinsley was in charge of the campus financial responsibilities. Therefore, we can determine that Professor Tinsely had the financial ability to pick out the precision-made Bausch & Lomb microscopes for his biology department.


In this case study we have observed this early 1900s era Bausch & Lomb microscope by using the whiggism methodological approach. We reviewed the importance of the biological sciences and the contributions of this scientific instrument. Also, we have observed how this microscope earned its place in the history of the Southwestern Biology department. To include the history of Bausch & Lomb we now understand how and why Southwestern University chose this microscope. Then observed its importance to the students’ academic experience at Southwestern. Therefore, we can conclude that this microscope served as a precision tool that provided the students during the early 1900s the ability to understand and apply what they have learned in the biological sciences. Henceforth earning its place in the history of Southwestern University.

[1] Green, Susan, and Julian Smith. "Small Things Draw Big Interest." Science and Children 42, no. 4 (2005): 30-34. Accessed February 28, 2020.

[2] STRICK, JAMES E. "REICH AND DU TEIL: CONTROL EXPERIMENTS BEGIN." In Wilhelm Reich, Biologist, 99-145. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press, 2015. Accessed March 2, 2020.

[3] JOHANNSEN, KRISTIN. "UNDER THE MICROSCOPE." In Ginseng Dreams: The Secret World of America's Most Valuable Plant, 163-88. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2006. Accessed March 9, 2020. DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2jcqhw.11.

[4]  Nieto-Galan, Agusti. Science in the Public Sphere (pp. 17-18). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition

[5] Simkin, John. “John Jacob Bausch.â€Â Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, Sept. 1997,

[6] “Our Company.” Bausch + Lomb,

[7] Southwestern University, 1903-1912 Undergraduate Cataloge, 3-5-2020, 20.

[8] Southwestern University, 1903-1912 Undergraduate Cataloge, 3-5-2020, 2.

The Bausch and Lomb Microscope at SU (late 1800s)