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Tardigrades, naturalists and the triplet distress (I)

Miss Ramazzottius (fig. 1) has made its way into the British establishment, though this establishment might have encountered a serious glamour loss meanwhile (Meghan and Harry, possibly even more nice to look at on glossy pages ...). Anyway, Miss Ramazzottius will remain on its glossy page within Mark Lawley's splendid book "Wildlife in the Marches" (see literature).

[ R. oberhaeuseri ]

Fig. 1: Image of an adult Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri female in Mark Lawley's splendid monograph. BTW, Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri previously was called Hypsibius oberhaeuseri. But, as you will imagine some kind of reorganization took place. Nothing special, quite common in the commercial world as well. Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri was not closed down completely, it just got a new corporate identity ...

But why is all this so special? Well, you know, German naturalists are looking with envy on elaborate naturalist's products like Mark Lawley's book. Great Britain probably has the longest and almost thoroughly indisturbed tradition in this field. 18th century German naturalists were existent but formed a temporary species when compared to the British. They tried to have fun and to impress noble ladies by means of their findings. But those funny noblemen disappeared, German biology became more "serious" and less fashionable during the 19th century. As a consequence, the German naturalist became a dying breed and vanished. It took a whole century to recover and reappeared in a more modest, popular form, similar to a religion, in the beginning of the 20th century. And the German naturalist failed to find its way back into German establishment. So we are quite proud that one of those noble British naturalists' came across our humble photo micrograph of Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri. But still, some envy about the British naturalists' tradition and glamour is remaining ...

As a consequence the enlightened German naturalist is idolizing the British naturalist, humbly and secretely following the British on their traces. On this pathway we came along a typical British Ebay offer, namely the "Ooak miniature naturalists' cabinet", a symbol and container of all our wishes. Besides "Ooak" stands for "One of a kind". Let's have a look at this item:

[ Naturalistenschrank ]

Fig. 2: Miniature model of a naturalist's cabinet. Height 16 cm. There is miniature literature, and, of course, lots of life (gone life, to be precise): a human skull (which might be not as accessible for the collector today as in former times!), an animal skull, fossils, remains of any kind of life within carefully labelled glasses, snail shells, sadistically needle-sorted butterflies, dried bugs, bird eggs, physico-chemical extracts of plant and animal life etc.
And, last but not least there is the typical technical equipment of the serious naturalist as well: microscope, camera and binoculars. A notebook (in the older sense of the word) is present as well.

Normally, there should be some kind of loupe or folding magnifier, too. But, due to its modest size of a few centimeters it would shrink to a few millimeters in the 1:12 scale world (up to now we didn't find one in the puppets' worlds). As a consequence we would like to substitute this important naturalist's equipment within our text. Hand magnifiers are terribly important objects, to be used and shown during naturalists' group excursions. The more expensive ones are symbols of luxury and "silly money", the less expensive items merely practical tools for biological field work.
As a consequence some "botanical" discussions are concentrating not so much on the micro life but moreover on the instruments above the micro life. And you will come across people who are disappointed and feel deceived about Ebay magnifiers. In particular when the salesmen are claiming to sell "triplet" magnifiers. But you should not fall into the racist and nationalist trap. Agreed, there are sellers from China who offer "triplets" with simple cylinder lenses. But there are professional German sellers as well who are offering the Chinese "triplet" cylinder lens magnifiers for a fourfold price ("German seller"). One of them reportedly answered to a complaint that he didn't care so much about the "exact" way his lenses were manufactured. As a consequence simple fraud can be converted to multiple profit ...

The funny fact behind all this is that some Chinese vendors actually do sell true triplets for impressively low prices as well (just a few $$$) - but one has to order and to check oneself.

But now it is time to stop our rant about the world corruption. Most of us are used to maximize gain against price paid so all of us should feel a little bit guilty about this outcome of globalization. So let's have a more sober look at the properties of some products. We will start explaining with an antique German triplet loupe and follow those splendid triplet systems up to present Chinese true triplet products. Lets start with the assumed "fraund" triplet. It is so much damn cheap on international Ebay that you definitely shouldn't expect the real thing for the price:

[ Triplet disappointment ]

Fig. 3: A typical Ebay "triplet magnifier" disappointment. After removal of the fixing threaded ring a simple cylinder lens is popping out. And no, this didn't come from a Chinese seller but from a German professional seller. Really sad.

But there is no use in continued ranting. Let's have a look at an impeccable old magnifier. It was made by the Munich based Steinheil company - we are not sure when, possibly in th 1930s or 1950s:

[ Steinheil 3x Triplett Lupe ]

Fig. 4: Remains of long gone times - a Steinheil 3x folding magnifier. In the dismantled state the true triplet is undeniably present. This kind of triplet is consisting of three lenses (as the term triplet implies) which are cemented together thus forming one combined optical element. The Steinheil system's optical geometry is as follows: one central biconvex crown glass (normal glass) lens with low refractive index is surrounded by two meniscus flint glass lenses (with high refractive index). Even when looking at classical high contrast objects like black letters on white paper, you will not notice any colour fringe whatsoever. Honestly speaking we think that all this might be considered as too much investment just in order to build a 3x magnifier. But when holding such a big folding magnifier in your hand you will probably enjoy it and keep it on your desk for permanent and universal use. Nice image quality overkill ...

[ Steinheil triplet loupe optical system ]

Fig. 5: By means of the side view you will be able to see the three lenses of the Steinheil system (with the two yellowish glue lines betweeen them). This 3x magnifier lens system is very impressive in so far as it features a full 4 cm diameter field of view and an unrivalled optical quality. Just keep in mind that there exist VERY few achromatic triplet magnifiers with low magnification.

[ Triplet check by means of a UV torch ]

Fig. 6: When directing the beam of a 365 nm UV torch onto the Steinheil triplet lens system some haze will appear. We think that this haze is caused by the fluorescence of the glue - not by one of the two glass variants used for Steinheil type triplets. You will be able to check this statement by UV-elucidating a Steinheil triplet from the side.

[ Steinheil 3x triplet loupe, as seen against backlight ]

Fig. 7: The Steinheil 3x magnifier in raking light. You will be able to perceive the typical, slightly wavy (or modestly scaly) surface properties of the old-fashioned Bakelite (a phenol formaldehyde resin). This material does never look perfectly smooth when coming out of the mold. Though one might consider this roughness as a flaw it is actually a proof of Bakeleite identity as well. Besides, spoken with a pinch of irony, the chemical constituents of the resin do perfectly comply with generations of biologists who drowned and killed any life encountered by means of formaldehyde solution ...

[ Steinheil 3x triplet loupe as seen under a microscope ]

Fig. 8: The last letter of the letter "I" within the "Steinheil" signature, as seen under incident microscopic illumination. It becomes apparent that 50 (!) milling steps were necessary to create this single letter in the primary mold, apparently manually in a non-automated procedure. So all these circles are traces and tiny memorials of former troublesome workmanship, at times when there was no computer to tell the machinery that it should move on for a few tenths of millimeters, then perform the same milling once more, on and on. The images of workers' traces are still present and we can hold them in our hands, 100 years later.

Alltogether the miniature cabinet is a tiny memorial in honour of the naturalist. Even though the naturalist might be considered as misanthropic by nature, the existence of a miniature cabinet like the one shown is documenting that those bizarre personalities are still noticed by their environment, and possibly even loved - who knows?


Mark Lawley: Wildlife in the Marches. p. 276. Ludlow 2015. ISBN 978-0-9561328-2-6.

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
The 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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