Maker's Name: 
Officine Galileo di Milano
Where made: 
Where used: 
UQ Teaching Labs
24.5 × 9 × 3 cm

This object was donated by the Officine Galileo (Galileo Workshops). The Officine Galileo is a major Italian optical equipment manufacturer with factories in Florence and Milan. The camera lucida is unique within this collection as it is not a microscope itself, and is instead an attachment that allowed early scientists to draw their observations while simultaneously using a microscope. This model of camera lucida has an extended mirror arm, and was sometimes called an ‘Abbe Drawing Camera’.

The operation of this form of camera lucida is very simple. The rounded end of the camera is affixed to the eyepiece of the microscope, and the attached mirror is tightened so that it sits at a 45° angle to the eyepiece. This allows the user of the camera to place a piece of drawing paper underneath the mirror, away from the base of the microscope thanks to the arm of the camera, and the image of the paper is reflected back up and into the eyepiece. Within the eyepiece sits a pair of prism s that have been joined together to form a half-silvered mirror, much like two way mirrors that are still used today. When the user looks through the camera lucida eyepiece, they see both the image of the drawing paper and the image of the object within the microscope. This allows them to trace the virtual image of the specimen without ever needing to remove their eye from the microscope. This camera lucida was used by the Veterinary and Animal Pathology department of UQ.

When using a camera lucida it is best to use a white pencil on a black page. A white page would reflect much more light than a black one and so the user runs the risk of washing out or overpowering the image of the specimen underneth the microscope. The camera lucida in the case has a pair of rotating caps that allow the user to choose the level of opacity of the virtual image, so that fainter details of the specimen can be made clearer.

In the 19th century camera lucida were commonly used in many areas of science and are still used today in some fields, such as paleontology. People have also theorized that camera lucida were also used by great painters in order to achieve photo realistic quality in their drawings.

This item is part of the UQ Physics Museum Microscopes Tour
< Previous Item | Return to Tour Menu | Next Item >