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History of the American Microscopical Society

The AMS grew out of the first National Microscopical Congress, convened in 1878 by medical and dental doctors and biologists interested in applying light microscopes in their work. At the time, the compound microscope was newly recognized as a powerful research tool, especially useful in medicine, bacteriology, and other fields of biology. The chairman of this first congress was a marine biologist who worked on algae, Alpheus Baker Hervey; the first President of AMS was a medical doctor, R.H. Ward; and his son, Henry B. Ward, was a prominent biologist of the early twentieth century and led the Society as President himself. Other early leaders of AMS included Hamilton Smith, known for his work on marine algae; Jacob D. Cox, a microscopical technologist and governor of Ohio; Thomas J. Burrill, a bacteriologist; and David S. Kellicott, a protozoologist. Other prominent names among the early membership were L.M. Vorce, G.E. Fell, E. and W. Bausch, G.E. Blackham, and C.A. Spencer. Oliver Wendell Holmes was an early associate. Simon Henry Gage, author of a long-used book on the microscope (17 editions published 1880-1943) was twice AMS President. The names of Charles A. Spencer and  Robert B. Tolles internationally respected builders of microscopes, were honored with establishment of the Spencer-Tolles Memorial Fund which continues today to support publications in microscopical research.


Many of the early meetings of AMS were prominent social as well as scientific affairs, given great press and attended by the general public, attracted by demonstrations of specimens under magnification. The AMS started one of the first(1) scientific journals in the United States, a journal that has variously gone under the titles Proceedings of the American Society of Microscopists (1880-1891), Proceedings of the American Microscopical Society (1892-1894), Transactions of the American Microscopical Society (1895-1994), and since 1995 as Invertebrate Biology.

The AMS has long encouraged all kinds of biological applications of microscopy, including study of protozoa, algae, fungi, vascular plants, bacteria, invertebrates, and vertebrate histology and cytology. Its journal, publishing manuscripts on all of these kinds of studies, went under the title Transactions of the American Microscopical Society for 100 years, starting in 1895. Over the last two decades of that period, the content of the journal and the Society's membership gradually shifted to an emphasis on invertebrate biology. To better make that emphasis known to the biological community, the name of the journal was changed in 1995 to Invertebrate Biology, continuing the Transactions as volume 114. Invertebrate Biology publishes reports of research on all aspects of the biology of invertebrates--not only microscopy, but research involving the fields of cell and molecular biology, ecology, physiology, genetics, systematics, behavior, and biogeography

  1. US biological scholarly journals comprise The American Naturalist (started 1867), The Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Society (started 1870) and Transactions of the American Fisheries Society

  2. See also J.O. Corliss (1978) The American Microscopical Society Celebrates its 100th birthday. BioScience 28:797-798.


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