Science in Miniature

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05 June 2012
imports_HAC_antonyvanleeuwenhoek_98032.jpg Antony van Leeuwenhoek
With a lifetime spent studying microbes and miniatures as her hobby, Linda Guthertz Sullivan combines the two with her reproductions in miniature of 4 great scientists laboratories. ...
Science in Miniature Images

Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632 - 1723)

When Bluette Meloney (well known IGMA artisan) held a class to create a building calld the Vermeer, I knew it would be the perfect place for a miniature scientific scene. The vermeer is from the mid 1600's in a classic Dutch style, so ideal for my first scientist.

Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and record the existence of bacteria. His actual line of work was as a linen merchant in Delft, Holland. He developed a fascination with grinding lenses used to count the threads in the cloth, and went on to construct his own simple microscope.

Leeuwenhoek also used his powerful lenses, which magnified objects over 200 times, to look into drops of water, amongst other things. His great accomplishments led to the discovery of the microbial world, the findings of which he reported in over a hundred letters to the Royal Society of London. To this day, he is known as the Father of Microscopy.


Below is a contemporary painting of the scientist and a close up of the miniature scene created by Linda.



Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895)


Louis Pasteur was a chemist who launched his memorable scientific career by studying the shapes of organic crystals. After solving problems of fermentation, he also looked into the causes of a devasting disease in silkworms that was destroying the French silk industry, as well as the development of a vaccine for cattle to protect them from anthrax.

Because Pasteur was a man of so many achievements, I had a hard time deciding which of them I was going to depict. Finally I decided to show his development of the rabies vaccine and the disproval of the theory of spontaneous generation. pasteur is shown here in his laboratory at his home examining the famous swan-necked flasks with his colleague, Dr. Emile Roux. The second photo below shows my miniature replica of the famous doctor.


I took some artistic license on the lower floor of the house and added a plague doctor. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the plague doctors were medical doctors hired by the government to treat people who suffered from the Black Death or bubonic plague. Their protective suits consisted of a heavy waxed fabric overcoat, gloves and a mask of glassed eye openings with a cone-shaped beak to hold scented substances. The masks were filled with herbs to protect the doctors from the bad air, which was thought at the time to be the cause of the disease. A wooden cane pointer was used to help examine the fatally ill patient so they didn't have to touch them!

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Dr Robert Koch (1843 - 1910)

My next scientist was Dr. Robert Koch who was based in Germany. Trained as a medical doctor, he became famous for the isolation of the anthrax bacteria and the discovery of the tuberculosis bacterium. In the scientific world he is memorably known for his four point check list, which was a generalised guideline to be used in any scientific research to prove the cause of a disease. In his laboratory, many of the techniques for handling bacteria such as the Petri dish and the use of agar jelly were developed. He produced many stains allowing the visualisation of bacteria in tissues, and took the first photographs to be taken through a microscope. Koch was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1905 for his work on tuberculosis.


Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958)

DNA is responsible for how cells work and what they look like. In the 1950's, there was a race between Linus Pauling in California, James D. Watson and Francis Crick at Cambridge University, and Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College, London. Each group was trying to be the first to determine the structure of the DNA molecule. The story of this race is filled with intrigue. It is said that Maurice Wilkins showed Rosalind Franklin's work to Watson without her knowledge. Her previously unseen X-ray diffraction pictures of the DNA molecule showed that the molecule was shaped like a helix, and confirmed to Watson that he and Crick were on the right track. Watson, Crick and Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their discover of the structure of DNA.


Rosalind Franklin, already deceased, was not acknowledged - despite the fact that her X-ray pictures contributed directly to the discovery of the double helix structure. For this reason, I chose Rosalind Franklin as my 4th scientist.

And Finally.....

My last laboratory is still under construction. When finished it will be my very personal tribute to two incredible modern day scientists and former colleagues at the California Department of Public Health. Dr. John Michael Janda, and Dr Sharon L. Abbott.

Thanks to.....

  • Ferenc Albert who blew most of the tiny glassware for the laboratories
  • Debra Jackson of Deb Jackson Designs who has created anything I asked for including microscopes and test tube racks.
  • Ellen Poitras for Louis Pasteur
  • Theresa Dudley of Northern Lites Miniatures for Leeuwenhoek, Koch, Watson, Crick, Wilkins, Franklin, Gosling and the Plague Doctors.
  • Diane Pietrocola for Roux and Petri


This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, or to email, print or comment on the feature, please use the buttons above to share with your friends.


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