by Guido Santacana, Puerto Rico


Recently I was able to acquire a projection microscope made in Japan probably in the 1950's. Figure 1 shows this nice instrument. The microscope was built for kids as a good quality simple low power microscope. It has all the characteristics that you need to develop a child's attention. The first impression is that of a small TV set by the looks of the projection screen. One simple toggle switch turns on the light bulb right underneath the stage. Just below the screen you can see the focusing screw used to move the objective turret assembly. A very small and easy movement of the screw provides for very sharp focusing. The powers are changed by moving a lever connected to the objective turret.

Figure 1: The Amerscope and original box

Figure 2 shows some more detail of the focusing screw and objective turret assembly. If you look carefully, there is light coming through the opening in the stage. This opening has a condenser lens to direct the light into the objective. It provides excellent lighting for the purpose by using a high intensity flashlight bulb. The two holding clips can be also observed. The construction of this microscope is mostly molded brown plastic. The lower rectangular compartment contains the batteries (D size) , a spare bulb and the lighting assembly. It can be separated from the upper body very easily to permit cleaning of the internal optics.

Figure 2: Focusing screw and objective turret assembly

The optical arrangement is very straight forward and consists mainly of the necessary two first surface mirrors to direct the light from the objectives into the frosted glass viewer. What about the images? When I first obtained this microscope, one of the internal mirrors was loose and the light did not work. The repair of both problems was very easy due to the excellent access to all the internal areas.

The first test with a prepared slide of corn stem revealed , to my surprise, excellent good quality images with crisp focus. The light in the room has to be a bit subdued in order to fully appreciate the images. This should have been an excellent first microscope for any child. It is indeed even usable as a group microscope for serious microscopy. The fact that it has survived for so many years attests to the high quality of construction.

All the lenses are of good quality glass and not plastic. This is another reason for its excellent performance. There were other microscopes of this type built entirely of metal and sold at about the same time. We find once again that the old toy microscopes of the past could perform their educational purpose with excellence due to simple, sturdy and above all quality construction. The next time you see one like this in a used things store by all means examine it You may have found a good first microscope for a child or for one of us in the bigger child variety.

Comments to the author Guido Santacana welcomed.

Editor's note: Read Guido's previous article in Micscape on collecting toy microscopes.


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First published in July 1998 Micscape Magazine.

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