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union is an interest in some one or more of the branches of science, in which the Microscope is an essential aid. These are so varied and extensive, that scarcely any branch of modern enquiry can be said to be independent of its assistance. Neither the botanist, biologist, chemist, geologist, nor the students of any department of natural history, can altogether dispense with its services.
The attractions and uses of the Microscope being so multifarious, it need be no matter of surprise that Microscopical Societies should have sprung up in so many different parts of the country, each with its special field of work.
What, then, is the special mission of the Postal Microscopical Society ? Let us seek an answer in its history : What was the first conception of the society by Mr. Atkinson, its first President ? He says in his first letter to Science Gossip, in May, 1873, “Let a certain number of persons, living in different parts of the country, agree to form a Postal Cabinet Association,” and in his letter he further developes a plan, which, after modification and assistance. from Mr. Allen, our present secretary, resulted in the establishment of our society : the essence of the whole being the association of a number of workers separated from each other by long distances, and thus isolated in their work; but now, by means of the post, linked together into a brotherhood, and enabled to communicate with each other, and to obtain encouragement, sympathy, and instruction from intercommunication.
Now, of all the departments of Microscopical work, there is, perhaps, no other in which mutual sympathy and help is more needed, and in which one is more likely to be discouraged by isolation than the department of mounting objects for the Microscope. This is an especial trouble to young students and to those who are only in the outset of their microscopical career. Suppose, having become the possessor of a much-coveted instrument, the student essays to mount the simplest objectprobably he has never seen an object mounted—how is he to go to work ? He consults his books. But all persons of practical experience know how difficult it is to acquire any art from books, more particularly one so full of minutie as that of mounting. This art, which consists in displaying and preserving the minute
structures of any object, is not reached at one bound, and in many cases the isolated student is rather hindered than helped by books. He stumbles on without hints and without help. He has no one to give him any of those little tips, wrinkles, or dodges, which are so helpful. Books hinder by want of precision and attention to detail, and to their omission of all those little hints which are necessary in practice. No wonder, then, that after a few early attempts he desists, and his microscope is, as I have often seen it, laid upon the shelf to be almost forgotten. And on this point Beale (“How to Work with the Microscope") expresses his belief that “many who possess microscopes are deterred from attempting any branch of original investigation solely by the great difficulty they experience in surmounting the details.
How different is the position of the beginner in our large towns ! I well remember with what pleasure I perused the reports of a mounting class, held at the Manchester Microscopical Society's rooms, where the various stages of dissecting, mounting, and displaying objects were superintended and practically illustrated by experienced mounters. But, alas ! I knew of no one for miles round who took the slightest interest in the subject, and had I not heard of the Postal Microscopical Society, through the British Medical Journal, which thus said of our society :-“Such societies are extremely useful and agreeable institutions, and are, of course, particularly convenient to those who reside at a distance from great centres. They enable men to exchange specimens and ideas with other well-known workers, and to keep up their interest in practical histology, in
not otherwise easily attainable"-I, too, would probably have discontinued my attempts, but having joined its ranks my interest in microscopical pursuits has continued to this day. That this isolation is felt by the student to be an almost insuperable difficulty, and not a fanciful one, is proved by an instance related in the first address given by my illustrious predecessor in this chair, Mr. Tuffen West, and the whole passage is worth quoting, as many of our later members may not have seen it. He says :
“Workers in isolated spots should have our first consideration.
It was for their benefit especially that the society was formed; it is on such that the arrival of a box of our slides, with its accompanying book of notes and drawings, confers the greatest boon. None but those who have experienced it can fully realise the state of stagnation into which even an active mind may sink, with no fellow-worker at hand; none with whom to communicate on subjects enlightening and elevating such as these. ago I was spending a few days with a nobleman of high culture, extensive knowledge, scientific tastes, and a worker too; perhaps the most original-minded man I ever met. Our converse was upon the best mode of publishing results he had obtained of great novelty and value, on the development of the vegetable cell. It was he who discovered the varying affinities of cell-growths for colouring agents, the knowledge of which has already borne such good fruit, and is destined still further to clear up many lifeprocesses which are at present obscure. As the time of our parting approached he remarked, “There isn't any one within fifty miles of me who cares aught about these things, and I feel as if I couldn't go on for lack of sympathy. I'm too far from London to profit by the Microscopical Society there, and I must give it up, though it has such a charm for me I would gladly work on. And he has given it up. That valuable original thinker and worker felt so disheartened by his surroundings that he fairly gave in to them, and this, his first great contribution to microscopical science, seems likely to be his last. How glad would he have been to have joined a society like ours, and how greatly would science have been the gainer in such an event.”
The nobleman here referred to was, I believe, Lord S. G. Osborne, whose observations were made by allowing plants to grow in a solution of carmine, and then examining the growing parts. If such an observer, with all the advantages of time and leisure, and real genius, is thus discouraged by want of sympathy, I think we may fairly feel that we have here a real field of work, and that our mission is to assist the tyro, and encourage with our sympathy the isolated worker. For this our society was first established, and it now becomes us to enquire, Have we fulfilled our mission ?
A little enquiry into the geographical distribution of our members, and a glance at the excellent and interesting little map,
published in Vol. I. of our journal, will show that they are to be found the most remote parts of England; some in Scotland, some in Ireland, and some even in Portugal; and will prove that our society is filling the field of work marked out for it by its founders.
Of course, no society like ours can have existed for thirteen years without having met with practical difficulties and hindrances. In the pages of the earlier note-books and presidential addresses, numerous complaints are to be found of breakages of slides; thus, one essential to progress, the safe transit of slides, had to be, if possible, secured. tion of boxes long vexed the members of the society, so important was it deemed, and so truly important was it that a prize was offered for the best box. Twenty-one boxes were sent in to compete, and of these twelve were subjected to practical use, a test before the days of the parcel post, and much more severe than now, when a breakage is a comparative rarity, and the prize was duly adjudged to Mr. C. D. Holmes, but these boxes had in their turn to give way to others, the invention, I believe, of our worthy secretary. Then, too, there were many complaints with respect to the quality, and more particularly the repetition of slides; complaints also of the circulation of slides of commonplace objects, and of the want of relation of one slide to another. On this point there can be no question that great progress has been made, and much of this progress is unquestionably due to the alteration in the rules made at the annual meeting, held Oct. II, 1883.
I am sure that all the members of our society will acknowledge that the plan of sending six or more slides in one box, instead of four slides in as many separate boxes, has been attended with the happiest results. Better slides have been circulated. Series of slides illustrating varying points of structure in allied species of animals and plants having become possible, the opportunity has been seized by many members, and our boxes of slides and their accompanying books of notes have alike gained in coherency and interest to an extent even greater than was anticipated.
The question of the preservation and publication of our notes had long proved an insoluble difficulty, but "as all things come to him who waits," so also this problem has found its solution in the publication of our very excellent journal, edited by Mr. Allen. This journal has already attained a very wide circulation—a circulation due entirely to its own merits, and all members of the Postal Microscopical Society ought to give it their earnest support. The following is the testimony of a gentleman, a member of various learned societies, whom I invited to join us, but who is at present unable to do so. He says :-"I have a very good opinion of your society, derived from a perusal of its publications, which I have taken from their commencement.” In this journal not only have we had many original papers far too long for our circulating manuscript note-books, but many interesting items have been drawn from our old note-books, wherein they were entombed.
It is beyond question that the microscope may be used both as a means of affording amusement, and as an instrument for scientific research. It has occasionally been made a reproach to our association, that it is mainly used for the former purpose
amusement—and that the chief end of the society has been the circulation of "Objects for the Microscope." Supposing this reproach to be true, which it is not, is it possible, I ask, to use the Microscope as a means of amusement—that is, to gratify the eye without occupying, stimulating, and enlarging the mind ? I unhesitatingly avow the contrary : it is not possible. Can any man or woman view without thought the beautiful revelations of the diaphanous and exquisitely-formed Daphnia, or Rotifer, or Floscule? Is it possible, think you, that anyone can thus view the workings of the interior economy of these beautiful little creatures without some reflections on the perfection of the unseen. Is it nothing, then, that our friends should be able to combine for “intellectual amusement”? We may not be able (and indeed all are not adapted by bent of mind) to adduce much original work as the result of the workings of our society, yet it has been helpful to many; and may even now be preparing some few of its members to such an end. For original workers are not born; they must be trained. Especially is this true of microscopical workers. Dr. Beale says :—"For however some may be inclined to disparage hand work as distinguished from head work, it is certain that no