This compound microscope belonged to Charles Peach (1800 - 86), a highly respected naturalist and fossil hunter. From the mid-1840s his meticulous notes and drawings record observations of marine biology, many of them made using this microscope he bought in 1844.

Charles Peach's microscope fact file

Date

c. 1840

Made from

Brass, glass, iron, wood, paper

Made by

Powell and Lealland of London

Museum reference

T.1999.40

On display

Enquire, Level 5, National Museum of Scotland. This gallery explores how scientists have sought to answer fundamental questions. 

 

Who is Charles Peach?

In the 19th century, there were few opportunities to make a living from scientific research. Charles William Peach (30 September 1800 to 28 February 1886), was employed as a customs officer.

However, Peach was also a distinguished naturalist, fossil hunter, collector, and researcher. He was a respected member of the scientific community. He provided barnacle specimens to Charles Darwin, spoke at scientific meetings and contributed to reference books and scientific journals.

Boxes of slides belonging to Charles W. Peach 

A Naturalist's Notebook

Charles Peach recorded detailed notes including when and where he found specimens and how the live organism behaved.

On the front page of this notebook he noted his postings, from Fowey on the Cornish coast in 1845, to Peterhead in 1849 and Wick in Caithness, in 1853.

Front page from Charles Peach's notebook

Natural beauty

The notebook reflects both scientific knowledge and artistic skill. Specimens are all given their full Latin names and the drawings convey the beauty of the natural world.

Some of the pages show initial pencil sketches and others meticulously finished ink drawings. Some of his drawings were engraved for publication in reference books and scientific journals.

Jewel Anemone, Charles Peach's notebook. 

Microscopic detail

Peach annotated magnified drawings to indicate the organism’s natural sizes and would return to a page years later to make an additional note or paste in another drawing.

Marine worms, Charles Peach's notebook. 

Studying the sea

Charles Peach studied the microscopic organisms that sometimes glowed, making the sea itself appear luminous. He discovered many that had not before been noted around the British coast. On one occasion he described the water as looking like sheets of flame.

Luminosity of the sea, Charles Peach's notebook. 

Scientific contribution

This notebook was devoted to marine life, which was only a small part of his activity.

Charles Peach collected many fossils which are now found in the National Museum of Scotland and the British Museum.

Detail from Charles Peach's notebook. 

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