Victorian Diatom Art
In the mid to late 19th century, people became increasingly fascinated with science. Rising literacy led to a demand for books, and an anonymous book titled Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation became the rage (http://goo.gl/fYMl0m). Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection. Microscopes became cheap and readily available. They were used not only for scientific discovery, but also as tools for popular entertainment. Microscope clubs popped up and amateurs made their own slides. Clever entrepreneurs took advantage of the public’s interest to make microscopic art by arranging hundreds or even thousands of tiny diatoms, butterfly scales or even beard hair (!) to generate these astonishing works of beauty. One such artist, Henry Dalton, used a boar hair and his own breath to move particles into position under a microscope. A newspaper article described him thus: “Although Dalton was dissipated, he excelled most of his imitators in this peculiar line of art” (http://goo.gl/tYPIUq).
Source: Exhibition Mounts by Watson & Sons, London circa 1885.
Reading: Antique microscopy slides reveal obsession with science http://goo.gl/c8a3d8
#ScienceEveryday when it’s not #ScienceSunday