Under the Microscope

In the museum’s archive we came across this box of microscope slides that had been hand made in the 1930’s by Gordon Parsons – a local Chagford man.

They were gifted to the museum in the 1980’s, along with his small brass microscope and camera. There was a handwritten sheet of paper explaining what the slides showed, but we couldn’t see if they had survived the years. Thanks to Exeter University, we were able to look at what was on the slides, using their high-tech microscopes.

Take a look at a few images of the slides on the web page and pause this recording for a few moments.

Gordon Parsons was born on July 27th 1909. His parents, Ernest and Ellen lived at Downton Cottage in Chagford and were tailors by trade. Gordon went to Chagford School but did not have the opportunity to receive further education, so his family paid for him to take correspondence courses. It may have been one of these courses that started his interest in nature and wanting to see what his naked eyes could not.

Looking through his microscope must have been like peering into a magical world. Gordon looked at things he found on Dartmoor,  like flora, fauna and insects.  He also looked at things from his own home, like fish scales and mouse hair. We believe, he purchased some slides of more exotic species from newspaper advertisements.

Gordon became very skilled at putting things he could barely see onto glass slides and examining them with his tiny microscope.  But this was only ever a hobby for him as we believe he worked at Oakhampton post office.

Gordon, after enjoying his retirement in Torquay, passed away on July 9, 1990.

The museum has been using photographs of what’s on these slides to inspire children to think about the beauty of nature and why we must protect it.