Butterfly Scales & Beard Hair: Antique Slides Reveal Obsession with Science

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A miniature photograph of the moon, beard hairs whose owner has been dead for centuries, a shaving of Egyptian mummy bone, flowerlike patterns constructed from butterfly scales and algae called diatoms, and engravings of biblical text.

During a good part of the 19th century, called the Victorian times, a peek through a microscope could reveal very different sights than ones we'd expect to see today. In the mid- to late-1800s, microscopes were not only instruments of scientific discovery, but they were tools for popular entertainment, particularly in Britain. And an industry of inventive slide makers sprung up to feed the public appetite for this new way of seeing.

About 150 years later, it's still possible to see some of these strange and beautiful sights, and to learn about the mounters who assembled them, thanks to antique slide collectors who delve into the lives of those who made these microscopic pieces of art. [Nature Under Glass: Gallery of Victorian Microscope Slides]

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