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In Awe of the Natural World
Credit: Howard Lynk, Victorian Microscope Slides
In the mid- to late-19th century, science gripped the public imagination. Literacy rates were rising, feeding demand for books. Theories, put forward in books like Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, about how the natural world came to be fascinated readers. Museums and exhibitions promoted interest in science and devices like the microscope. Microscopes became cheaper, and a popular form of entertainment. Viewers peered through them at specimens they'd collected themselves or slides prepared professionally. The image above shows an ocean-dwelling diatom — a single-celled alga surrounded by a glass-like cell wall.