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In the last issue we have seen a fascinating historical water bear   colour litho  printed in 1867. In particular in Great Britain there was a lively microscope amateur scenery already before 1870.
A very good example for the communication among this early microscopic community is the popular microscope book by a famous  female  microscope amateur - keep in mind that even today female amateur microscopists seem to be an extremely scarce species. The author was the  Honourable Mrs. Ward  who published her beautiful book in the eighteen-sixties:

[detail from cover]

"The Microscope" by
the Hon. Mrs. Ward,
3rd ed., London 1869,
detail of the cover.

In the preface to her book Mrs. Ward describes how popular microscopy came into being: "For at that time when I wrote my book, good microscopes were in the hands only of the few."
Obviously there were quite a few people who considered microscopy just as some kind of visual deception. Let's listen to Mrs. Ward: "In the days of my microscopic displays, a working man came, half shily and half pleased, at the persuasions of a few of my young friends, to look through the instrument at some striking object. He gazed attentively for a moment, and then exclaimed, in considerable surprise, «It is beautiful - but, is it true ? »
«Yes, my friend, » (might have been the reply) « it is true; it is itself a truth and a reality.»"

A similar mindwork had to be performed by the few microscopists in the 18. century. You know, the fear that one might be considered as driven by evil and as a consequence possibly be punished to death, was quite understandable. So the authors of the 18. century introduced the virtual eye-witness as a stylistic means to convince people that they were reporting facts and not telling tales in their books. E.g. the pastor Goeze who was the first man on earth to publish about tardigrades use this stylistic help as follows: "One day I found in a droplet of water ... some skins of dead tardigrades, with the claws and the eight legs still in place. Within such a skin there were eleven brown oval objects, with a black spot pattern. They contained young tardigrades, some of which were really moving as myself and a few friends noticed."

Mrs. Ward was lucky in so far as she received a fine microscope by her parents already when she was still a child, at a time when microscopes where not affordable for everyday people. With pride, Mrs. Ward puts a colour print of this elegant "golden" instrument on the very first page of her book:

[Mrs. Ward's microscope]

Mrs. Ward's microscope

There are further examples of British microscope building artists which need not be commented as they talk by themselves:

[Binokulares Mikroskop]

Binocular microscope.
Commercial ad in the book by the Honourable Mrs. Ward

Mrs. Ward explains microscopy for beginners. Even today one might recommend her book as a start-up into this field. The titles of her book indicate that everything has a relation to practical microscopy: "The microscope unpacked", "Collecting and mounting of objects","Hairs and feathers" ...
But in fact some facets of the framework conditions for beginners seem to have changed since Mrs. Ward's time: "Do not use a candle, it flickers so unpleasantly, and its height changes when it burns down; use a lamp, a small paraffine lamp ... instead".

There is no doubt that a really good microscopy book should contain some informations about water bears. And, in fact, Mrs. Ward is not going to disappoint us. She spends two full text pages and an illustration on our thrilling topic:

[tardigrade, historical drawing]

It is one of the merits of the Honourable Mrs. Ward to have given one of the most lively descriptions of the encounter between a (wo)man and a water bear: "The fourth tribe which M. Dujardin has included among the rotifers consists of the Tardigrada, or slowsteppers, popularly called 'water-bears'. They are very fully described in 'Marvels of Pond-life;' but a sight of the original is required to give a full idea of the creature's comical aspect. I first observed it when examining a quantity of weed in a live-box. The head and a pair of feet were suddenly poked into view, and I thought, 'here is a small larva,' and expected a long body in several joints to follow, when all at once the creature showed in its completeness, walking along a stalk, and more like a young puppy with eight legs than can be easily believed! Mr. Slack says his specimens had no visible eyes, and that these organs are, according to Pritchard's book,¤ 'variable and fugacious.' My water-bears had eyes, and of very respectable size and blackness. The first specimen which I met, being given sufficient room to climb by slightly raising the life-box's cover, seemed for some minutes as if staring at me, and in that position not a little resembling the white polar bear, its colour being somewhat pale. I felt inclined, when looking at this animal, to side strongly with those naturalists who (as Dr. Carpenter mentioned) regard the Tardigrada as altogether distinct from the true rotifers. Mr. Slack's account of them is, that they are, physiologically speaking, poor relations of the great family of spiders."

Literature and footnotes

Owen Harry: The Hon. Mrs. Ward (1827-1869): A Wife, Mother, Microscopist and Astronomer in Ireland 1854-1869. In: Science in Ireland, 1800-1930: Tradition and Reform, John R. Nudds (Ed.), Dublin 1988.

The Hon. Mrs. Ward: The Microscope. 3rd ed., London 1869.

¤ Pritchard's 'History of Infusoria'

(*) The Live-Box is a special device for the investigation of small living organisms under a microscope.

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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