Charles Henry Vance Smith – a pioneering 19th century microscopist based in Wales

by Kevin L. Davies

During the 19th century, there was considerable interest in the microscope, both as an instrument for educating serious students of biology and medicine, and as a source of entertainment, the whole family often gathering around to observe animal, plant and mineral specimens on long Winter evenings. As a result, and in order to satisfy the great demand for prepared specimens, many microscope manufacturers offered microscope slides of a range of material for individual use, and many of these specimens were chosen to illustrate those described in biology and medical textbooks of the time. Some individuals also became skilled mounters and, whereas  microscope manufacturers were able to provide slides of a relatively limited range of material, these individuals often offered more unusual preparations. One such mounter and entrepreneur was  Charles Henry Vance Smith who, for some time, lived at 5, The Parade, Carmarthen. What makes him so unusual is that we know of very few microscopists working at that time in Wales.  Many of his slides, most of which appear to have been botanical, have survived and I am fortunate to possess some examples of these. Even today, the quality of his work speaks for itself. The Orchid Study Group is also very fortunate to have been given permission to reproduce here, in full, Peter B. Paisley’s learned account of Smith’s life and work, in the hope that it will encourage further research into this most remarkable of men.


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