Exhibition: Microscopes from the Golub Collection

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 31, 2011

Eighteenth-century news from an airport press release? A first for everything. This exhibition of sixty microscopes looks like a fine way to pass an hour or two during a layover. From the San Francisco Airport:

A World Examined: Microscopes from the Age of Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century
SFO Museum, San Francisco International Airport, 24 December 2011 —  24 June 2012

Curated by Steven Ruzin

George Adams, detail of New Universal Microscope, ca. 1746
(The Golub Collection, University of California, Berkeley)

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The microscope is a relatively young invention. Although magnifiers and “burning glasses” are referenced in ancient Chinese texts and in the first-century CE writings of Roman philosophers, the use of an optical instrument for observing microscopic specimens dates only to the sixteenth century when European scientists first used lenses to magnify objects. Englishman Robert Hooke, one of the most important scientists of his age, modified the compound microscope in the mid-seventeenth century and documented his observations in vivid descriptions and extraordinary copper-plate illustrations of dozens of minuscule phenomena—animal, vegetable, mineral, even man-made objects such as the point of a needle or a razor’s edge. His work stands as a remarkable testament to the keen and curious minds operating at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.

John Marshall, Great Double Microscope, London, 1710. Wood, brass, cardboard, leather, and gilt (The Golub Collection, University of California, Berkeley)

From mid-seventeenth-century simple microscopes to the modern compound optical devices by German makers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these are the instruments that revealed the long-held secrets of the natural world—the existence of microorganisms, the structure of biological cells, and the composition and operation of a variety of previously unseen life forms. Nearly 350 years after Robert Hooke introduced a “newly visible world,” we continue to rely on the microscope in our eternal quest to better understand the world we inhabit and the challenges posed by that which remains invisible to the unaided eye.

A World Examined: Microscopes from the Age of Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby, San Francisco International Airport. The exhibition is on view, free of charge, to all Airport visitors from December 24, 2011 to June 24, 2012.

This exhibition was guest curated by Steven Ruzin, Ph.D., Director of the CNR Biological Imaging Facility and Curator of The Golub Collection at the University of California, Berkeley. A selection of images are available here»

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SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public. The Museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums since 1999, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation.

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More information on the exhibition, including a history of the formation of the collection and photographs of the installation at SFO Museum, are available via The Golub Collection website.

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