Developing a market for scientific instruments from enthusiastic amateurs
The Quekett Microscopical Club, founded in 1865, was named in honour of Prof. John Thomas Quekett, a famous Victorian microscopist, “who had worked so hard and successfully towards making the microscope a vital scientific research instrument. (…) His interest in the microscope began early: he is said to have constructed one for himself out of a roasting-jack, a parasol, and some fragments of brass, and with assistance of this remarkable instrument to have given, when still only sixteen, a course of lectures at Langport school in Somerset.”1
Quekett decided on a medical career and was entered as a student at the London Hospital Medical College, and at Kings College, London. He successfully completed a studentship in Human and Comparative Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons, during which time he made some 2,500 microscopical preparations, a high proportion of which remain in the College’s slide collection today2. His Treatise on the Microscope, first published in 1848, was published in revised editions in 1852 and 1853, and a German translation was published in Weimar in 1850. In due course he was awarded a Professorship in Histology at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1852, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1860.
The Quekett Microscopical Club grew out of the Society of Amateur Botanists, a group of amateur microscopists in London that included prominent figures such as: M.C. Cooke, Thomas Ketteringham, and Witham Bywater. At the time, Cooke, Ketteringham, and Bywater were meeting once a week at Bywater’s house for an evening with their microscope, when they would examine objects and discuss specimens of special interest they had brought with them. At 10.00 pm they would put away their instruments and discuss Science Gossip, a journal edited by Cooke (more information about Science Gossip can be found under letter J is for Journal in this blog’s series). Later on the three friends agreed to support the proposal that the informal meeting be adopted as a provisional committee. The title agreed for this new association was “The Quekett Microscopical Club”.
“The Quekett”, as it is commonly known today, remains dedicated to the interests of amateur microscopists, holding monthly meetings in London, in which ‘Gossip’ style meetings are combined with short talks by a member. The Quekett Microscopical Club publishes The Quekett Journal of Microscopy and the Bulletin of the Quekett Microscopical Club. The Quekett Journal of Microscopy has continued an unbroken tradition since 1868, during which time it has also been known as the Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1868–1966) and Microscopy (1966–1993). Many of the volumes are accessible via:
Members of the Club also receive issues of the Bulletin of the Quekett Microscopical Club.
In the Whipple collection the Quekett Microscopical Club’s journals appear under all three titles: Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (from the periods between 1869-84); continues as Microscopy: the Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1966-67, 1988-92); and Quekett Journal of Microscopy (1993-2003). The Whipple also holds some copies of the Bulletin of the Quekett Microscopical Club. (Most of the earliest issues came from the library of Gerard Turner).
Holding in one hand a copy of the Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club from the 1860’s and in the other an issue from 1965, is easy to observe how this journal has been developed throughout one century!
1 Turner, G.L’E. Micrographia historica 1972, p. 5
2Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club, Special issue for the Centenary meeting and the exhibition, vol. 30, no. 3, 8-9 October 1965, p.57