Shot Through a Microscope

Cheese Mites
R: F. Martin Duncan. D: F. Martin Duncan. P: Charles Urban Trading Company / Micro Bioscope. UK 1903
For the programme “The Unseen World”
Print: BFI

Cheese Mites was the sensation of the first public programme of scientific films in Britain shown at the Alhambra Music Hall in Leicester Square, London, in August 1903. Its claim to being scientific lay in its being shot through a microscope, revealing to a lay audience sights that would normally only have been available to owners of microscopes. The programme, billed as ‘The Unseen World’, also included the microcinematographic studies The Frog, His Webbed Foot, The Circulation of his Blood; The Fresh Water Hydra; and The Circulation of the Protoplasm of the Canadian Waterweed. (…)
But although promoted as scientific, these were not the products of the elite university laboratory-based science. Francis Martin Duncan, the ‘scientist’ behind the films, was an enthusiastic amateur natural historian who was making a living by taking still photographs through microscopes and publishing manuals and articles on the technique needed to do so.
Cheese mites as a species were very familiar to microscopists, frequently being included in beginners’ kits as first subjects to be examined when the instrument was brought home. Percy Smith, who made Mitey Atoms (Secrets of Nature, 1930), a later film on the same subject, joked that a father buying a microscope could defray the cost by putting his family off their dinner. Charles Urban, the entrepreneur behind ‘The Unseen World’, chose to emphasise the revulsion factor by adding shots of a man so revolted by studying his Stilton lunch that he threw it away. Cheese Mites was such a sensation that it led to the production of a spoof; Percy Stow and Cecil Hepworth’s The Unclean World (1903), which featured clockwork bugs.”
Timothy Boon
BFI Screenonline

>>> Percy Smith’s Micro Cinematography on this site

>>> about Charles Urban: Early Ethnography

>>> Nature / Science