Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Science and Beauty: Victorian microscope slides

The beginning of the 19th century, saw significant advances in the study of the natural sciences as well as the burgeoning of the middle class during the Victorian era.  This new social class had some extra money to spend and leisure time and some sought to put together their own cabinets of curiosities. Now collecting specimens and conducting research was no longer a pursuit attainable only to the leisure classes. Going on excursions to collect specimens and putting together their own slides became a popular pastime for many people.

From The Illustrated London News, 1855

Some of these amateur naturalists added microscopes to their collections, as more affordable versions of the instrument were now being made with the development of industry.  Looking at slides was not only appealing to those interested in the natural world, but was also seen as a source of entertainment to both men and women, just like other pass times which became available to the middle class such as playing the piano.  

Advertisement in the Quarterly Journal of Science, 1875

The beauty of the slides is conveyed by both the slides themselves as well as the mounts. Mounts for the slides were decorated with coloured papers and ornate designs. The specimens found within the slides could come from back gardens or from around the world, the concept of "the exotic" being very much in vogue at the time. Some individuals, seeing the popularity of microscope slides, rose to the occasion and began producing slides for sale.

Below are some examples of sought after microscope slides made and collected by Victorians, as seen on the superb website I can really see why these slides are still sought after by collectors.  

The specimens below are shown as they appear under the microscope and are made with various materials such as scales or shell. These are beautiful examples of the appeal of viewing specimen slides for their colourful beauty.

It's spectacular how the natural world never ceases to inspire a sense of delight and wonder. 

What a beautifully human experience.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Most of my celebrity crushes are long deceased

 I've always been a history nerd and I spent some years as a history student, which meant I spent many hours with my head in previous centuries. I still do, really.  Naturally, I decided to compile a list of some of my favourite crushes* from the past. The general criteria seems to be: dark, brooding, rather handsome, obvious genius, tragic, not completely loony. I've also included a sample of their work which has moved me and remained important to me throughout the years. 

So here it is: my list of "Celebrity Crushes Long Deceased." 

Dark and Mysterious: Tom Thomson



Tom Thomson at Cauchon, c. 1916

Northern River

The Pool

The Headliner: Oscar Wilde


"I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying." 


"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."


"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."

The Romantic: Frédéric Chopin


Frédéric Chopin

"I wish I could throw off the thoughts which poison my happiness. And yet I take a kind of pleasure in indulging them."


"It is dreadful when something weighs on your mind, not to have a soul to unburden yourself to. You know what I mean. I tell my piano the things I used to tell you."

The Young Tragedy: John Keats

            "I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion - I have shuddered at it. I  shudder no more - I could be martyred for my religion - Love is my religion - I could die for that."


"The poetry of the earth is never dead."

Tragedy certainly adds to the myth of the man once he's died (think of James Dean or Jimi Hendrix) and this factor can't be ignored when it comes to the men above. Nevertheless, the genius of these men holds its own regardless of their tragic tales. I suppose my romantic tendencies can't help but love these artists all the more because my imagination works at thinking about what else they would have produced had they lived longer.

To follow: a post about some women from history I admire!

*The notion of "crush" I have in mind when compiling this list is really the I love your brain and would follow you on Twitter if you were alive and you seemingly weren't a complete turd sort of crushnot the I have unhealthy delusions about you sort of crush. Voilà.