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Modified Spencer dissection microscope base


The instrument has a steel H-shaped base that continues upward to support a steel rectangular stage. There are two metal dials behind the stage. The aluminum pole is missing, but the dials moved the aluminum pole up and down. Most likely an ocular and objective lens were originally attached to the aluminium rod, but were removed when the instrument was modified for another purpose.

On top of the stage rests a aluminum sheet with two knob like structures on the side furthest from the metal dials behind the stage. The position of these knobs can be adjusted and secured. There is a long, thin metal rectangular piece attached to the aluminum mounted on the stage that moves back and forth. There is a coil at the base of this rectangular piece. There are two wires which attach to the bottom of the stage and end in red and black prongs, which possibly were used to connect a battery to power the apparatus.

There instrument also has a triangular piece with a curved edge that is not attached to the steel frame or platform. The curved edge of the triangular piece contains 17 small holes. There is a small metal peg inserted into the sixth hole from the left. Attached to this triangular piece is a long rectangular metal piece with a black insulated tip. The long rectangular piece can move back and forth and it seems like it’s movement is restricted by the placement of the small metal peg. On the right side of the triangular piece is another wire that attaches to a metal piece with a circular loop.

Accession Number: 2016.zoo.15

Alternative Name:

Primary Materials: steel, metal, rubber, plastic


On back between two dials: “SPENCER BUFFALO USA 107662”
Underneath the platform where the chord attaches: “Centralab Type B RADIONM Please remove label to attach type KK line switches”

Dimensions (cm):

Height= 10.6 , Width = 17.3, Length = 16.5



Fair condition. Scratching and rust evident on the steel frame. The black paint has flaked off on the bottom of the stand that rests on the table and on the steel that supports the silver metal platform. The silver metal platform is scratched. The chord that attaches to the bottom of the instrument is cracking and some flaking has occurred, exposing the wire underneath. The aluminum pole that inserts in the hole behind the platform is missing.

Associated Instruments: 2016.zoo.14

Manufacturer: Spencer

Date of Manufacture:


This modified Spencer dissection microscope stand belonged to the Department of Zoology at the University of Toronto. It is unknown if this stand was used at the University of Toronto, but it seems possible.

Additional Information and References:

For more information about microscope stands and Spencer microscopes, please see the following resources:

Bud, R., & Warner, D. J. (1998). Instruments of science : an historical encyclopedia. New York: in association with Garland Pub. pp. 392-393.

Historical Notes:

The Spencer company was an American company in Buffalo, New York that manufactured microscopes. The company was founded by Charles Spencer who published the first catalogue in 1838. The Spencer company was purchased in 1935 by American Optical. See for more information about American Optical and the Spencer company.

The provenance of the object, its function and the reason it was modified and to what purpose are unknown. Janet Mannone and Dr. Harold Atwood were contacted through email and asked if they had any idea of who may have used the object in the Department of Zoology at the University of Toronto. So far this has not been successful. Research has also been conducted into the Spencer Company to obtain a better understanding on what the object originally looked like before modifications. It was most likely a microscope with optical and objective lenses but these were all removed when the object was modified.

Also consulted the following book:
Craigie, E.H. (1966). A history of the Department of Zoology of the University of Toronto up to 1962. Toronto: Department of Zoology.

This book gave a good background on the origins and professors in the Department of Zoology and brief outline of subjects taught and types of experiments conducted at the Department of Zoology from it’s early years to 1962. This book did not really help in identifying the object but did shed some light on the Department of Zoology, which no one seems to know much about at the University of Toronto.