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Minutes from the Second Annual Meeting of the American Society of Microscopists

May 23, 2014 | by

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific prose available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “Minutes from the Second Annual Meeting of the American Society of Microscopists,” published in 1879.

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Eric Earnshaw, After Lunch, 1942

The American Society of Microscopists met in Second Annual Convention, pursuant to the final adjournment of the First Annual Session, in the Central School building, Buffalo, New York, at ten o’clock a.m., August 19th, 1879; the President, Dr. R. H. Ward, in the chair.

The Rev. Dr. Van Bokkelen, of Trinity Church, offered prayer.

Then, on behalf of the local Microscopical Club, Dr. H. R. Hopkins welcomed the visitors with the following address:

Mr. President and Gentlemen: let us exchange congratulations upon this the occasion of the second meeting of the American Society of Microscopists.

I most heartily congratulate each and all of you who have the pleasure of remembering that you assisted in the work of founding this society, and I also congratulate all of you who have the opportunity of attending the second meeting and of enrolling your names among the lists of its members. I also ask you to congratulate the citizens of Buffalo upon the fact that the second meeting of this society is held in our city.

I congratulate you upon the hearty cordiality with which you are made welcome by every member of your local committee, and the various societies and associations which that committee represents, and I ask you to congratulate us upon the cheering prospects that our expectations of the pleasure of listening to your deliberations are so near fruition.

Again I congratulate you upon the fact that there is an American Society of Microscopists, and I believe that the work of recording what Americans have done and are doing for the advancement of this department of science can safely be trusted to the future of the Society. With this thought in my mind, I must congratulate you upon the prospect of having with you one who has had the rare good fortune to teach the world how to make objectives, whose angles extend far outside the limits which authorities had fixed as the boundaries of the possible. Let us give all honor to the modest yet noble American, Mr. Charles A. Spencer, at once the father and the genius of Modern Microscopy.

Bright and pleasing to me as are these thoughts with which I would welcome you on this occasion, there are others which call for still more hearty congratulations. I sincerely congratulate you upon the nature of the study which this society is intended to facilitate and encourage. The labor of the Microscopist is a hopeful labor, and although discouragement and despondency will come to all, although many must fail and but few succeed, yet in the light of the glorious triumphs of the various makers and workers of the microscope, triumphs which, within the period spanned by the memory of many now present, have produced the high degree of perfection of our optical and mechanical appliances; triumphs which have given birth to whole departments of scientific knowledge, neither discouragement or despondency can long prevail. But, beyond and above the glorious inspiration which history gives us, are we not made hopeful by the feeling that the indomitable perseverance and faith which impels the student to strive and seek after new truths, is, of itself, a sign and a promise that to some patient worker nature is still waiting to reveal herself?

Therefore, I congratulate you upon the nature and character of the work you have in hand, upon the sublime patience, courage and glorious achievements of the lathers—upon the character, the zeal and the inspiration of your coworkers, and upon the organization which gathers all these elements and from them weaves the web of progress.

In behalf of your local committee, and the different learned and professional societies which that committee represents, I welcome you to Buffalo. May your meetings and deliberations be as profitable to you as they will be entertaining to us.

The Society recognized the reference to Mr. Spencer's name by a hearty applause. Dr. Hopkins at the conclusion of his remarks, introduced the Hon. George W. Clinton, of the Society of Natural Science.

Judge Clinton said that, in common with the preceding speaker and the gentleman who was to follow him, he regretted that custom compelled him to confine his words to those of welcome, and to subjects with which they were more familiar than he. He was glad, very glad, to see them there. He was sorry that he had not been able to prepare a more suitable address. He had merely jotted down a few notes which he might have altered. He did not know really what he ought to say about the microscope, the mighty instrument which they had come there to study and honor. In its simplest form, the lens, they were well aware that it had come down to us from remote ages. By the aid of this, man's intellect had discovered the telescope by which volumes had been learned of the stars. It had also given them the microscope by which the things of the “heavens below” have been and were yet studied. And in that study of the infinitesimal, it seemed to him a richer knowledge was secured than could be gained by the study of infinite vastness. In microscopy, science and art were so intermingled as to be difficult of separation. Was it a science or an art? Strictly speaking he should say that it was neither. It furnished food for all the sciences; it nourished all the arts. He was very glad to see the American Society here. He knew that the citizens of Buffalo held them in high esteem, and he was sure that their stay would be made as pleasant as possible.

Of all the sciences represented there was none more dependent upon microscopy than was his own (Botany). It was, therefore, with the utmost cordiality that he bade them welcome.

Dr. Thomas F. Rochester followed with the following words of welcome for the medical profession:

There is no pleasanter word to hear or to utter than welcome. And when, a day or two since, the speaker was designated to say it to those here assembled for the physicians of Buffalo, he felt that he was much honored in being made their representative to discharge a most agreeable duty. It is not, however, as strangers that we meet. There is in science a bond of fraternity at once broad and yet close and cordial. The scholar of one section is affiliated to those of others, however near or remote, not only by common pursuits and investigations, but also by that higher and loftier spirit which is evolved by intellectual progress, and develops of necessity a feeling of congenial and fraternal interest toward all who strive to make mind dominant over matter. In addition to these conveniences and effects of an educated and elevated intellectuality, there is between you and us a closer and more intimate tie, but not a more binding or exalted one—that is a professional one. A physician must either be himself a microscopist, or must have almost daily recourse to one, for the necessary information to practice his profession correctly and conscientiously, not to say successfully.

Nothing is hazarded in taking for granted that a large proportion of this audience consists of medical men. The microscope, at first a necessity for professional instruction and information, becomes a delight and attraction which captivates its employer and leads him on and on in the boundless fields of science, which it unfolds to him and illuminates with a beauty of design and structure of which no description can give an adequate idea, and of which the most abstruse thought and the most vivid imagination could never have conceived.

What the microscope has done, and is doing, for medicine can only be alluded to. By it alone we observe the minute homogeneous and wonderful processes by which the human body is evolved from a simple cell to the complete structure we call man. By its information we recognize diseases as local and parasitic, which for ages have been considered constitutional. By it, the various secretions and excretions of the body are examined, and it alone often determines whether important organs are functionally or structurally disordered. In chemistry, by determining form, it often enables the examiner to predict probable properties.

These things and many others the microscope has done for medical science. How much more, it is difficult to surmise. Your chief reason for gathering here from all points, many of them far distant, is to extend the knowledge and promote the use of microscopy. Such meetings, apart from their delightful social elements, must afford you great pleasure and information, and by every advance you make, is medicine correspondingly aided and elevated.

The late Valentine Mott, in his day the most celebrated of American surgeons, designed for himself a coat-of-arms, the subject being a closed hand with the forefinger extended and terminating in an open eye, indicating that his touch was so delicate and correct that it gave as positive information as vision. But what is this to the microscope ; which metaphorically covers us with eyes, which penetrate into the hidden depths of nature and bring out for our instruction and delight visions of wonder and of beauty and of power? As confreres, and as the promoters of this science of sight, again welcome, and thrice welcome.

To these cordial welcomes, Dr. Ward replied as follows:

It is no common pleasure to be able to receive and accept the welcome to this Society extended by you, and through you by the citizens of Buffalo, and to give voice to the reciprocation by our members to your words of courtesy and appreciation. We meet you under peculiarly pleasant circumstances. Those of us who had the pleasure some years ago of attending the Buffalo meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will never forget that meeting as distinguished not only by its high scientific standard, but also by the cordial, thoughtful and delicate hospitality, which made the week memorable; and from the prompt acclamation with which the invitation to meet in your city at this time was accepted last year, I fear you may have acquired a reputation which will some time be troublesome. But for all this we have been pleasantly disappointed this summer. We expected the careful and convenient arrangements which your committee have made for our comfort and our work; but we never dreamed of their supplying us with the coolest, not to say coldest, weather that was ever seen in the midst of dog-days.

In one other respect our position is peculiar. Our Society is in its infancy, one year old, and just learning to walk. But though small in years, its size is considerable, its members are numerous, and those who are interested in it represent not only the various centers of scientific culture, but also the most quiet and secluded nooks in the country. We are brought together by an enthusiasm almost unknown in any other branch of science. We are stimulated by the study of those little things which led a philosopher to call God great in great things, greatest in the smallest.

We meet with the expectation of a most profitable session, and we thank you heartily for your interest and encouragement.

The Secretary, Dr. Henry Jameson, not having arrived, Dr. Carl Seiler, of Philadelphia, was elected Secretary pro-tern.

A recess was then taken for ten minutes, to give the members in attendance time to register their names, and to prepare applications of candidates for membership.

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