HISTORY OF THE MAGISCOPE®
Something Was Missing...
With a decade of working with the most sophisticated microscopes on the planet, Dennis Brock knew something was missing. Something vivid, something exciting, and inspiring to the young nature lover/scientist.
He knew what was possible, as well as what was not available to everyone. Well designed optics, produce spectacular images that would certainly inspire any bright mind regardless of their background.
Somehow, all this was lost to the general public. When only a scientist could view this astonishing world, and so much is lost. An insects view of the world is a profound lesson in humility, insight, and perspective.
In Search of….
Thirty years ago, the children’s “microscopes” were merely small plastic versions of the real thing. They came in thin plywood boxes with meaningless accessories/tiny spatula, a needle for sticking things, a forceps, and some blank slides.
The main problem was that the scope did not work. The low power was barely functional and the other little plastic lenses were useless. Eye floaters were often mistaken for signs of life. A young Mr. Brock managed somehow to scrape up enough soda deposit bottle change to buy one himself only to be let down like millions of other once hopeful children.
To Dennis Brock this was simply unacceptable, and he was about to do something about it. To create the perfect child’s microscope, one must know and appreciate what is possible and what is lacking. Since virtually everything was missing there was no where to go but up. In a perfect world, which is of course what we should all strive for, what would constitute a perfect microscope for a natural scientist?
It is simple really. In a perfect world a microscope should be able to view anything, indoors or out, by almost anyone regardless of age with ease but without worry. That is indeed a tall order. In practical terms, it meant tackling the ever troublesome light source which was either battery driven or plugged in.
The perfect scope would use actual real world lenses from medical microscopes. Then, all those broken microscopes in school cabinets everywhere could have their optics put back into use as most have lighting problems.
The perfect microscope would use ambient light, either indoors or out. Perfection must also mean simplicity of operation with the ultimate goal of having only one moving part. Something other microscopes would only dream of.
With simplicity comes reliability especially if you go back in time and use materials that have integrity and therefore longevity. Brass and solid aluminum casting crafted by hand, one at a time, the old fashion way. Is any of this even possible?
Brock’s first microscope was rather ugly, large and heavy. It had two moving parts and looked like an old timer with a horseshoe base and a brass tube made from a shower curtain rod. The body was at first made of hard wood from a cutting board.
That wasn’t good enough for Brock so he totally redesigned his creation to having only one moving part, and to allow form to follow function. The first stand was field tested at the original Orlando Science Center where it earned high praise. But this new version, which was called the Model 50, was even better.
Here was a scope that almost anyone could use successfully, and the world took notice. Brock received the Parent’s Choice Award the next year for his contribution to the cause of educating kids in science.
The limitation of the Model 50 is its inability to do what we call, transmitted light. Which means lighting through the bottom for slides and water specimens. The 50 was great on solid objects at low power, but using higher mags on slides would require lighting from below. As for the Magiscope, this was a moment of truth and inspiration. Whatever Brock came up with, it had to be fool proof and versatile.
It should use no batteries or power of any kind. It had to be forgettable.
Many people consider the Lumarod Illuminator® as sure genius as it more than meets the requirements of the perfect microscope.
Model 60 – I see the light…
The creation of the Lumarod® now meant that the Magiscope could view anything. Combining the attributes of reflected light and transmitted light simultaneously and ambiantly. Higher power objectives from standard laboratory microscopes could be salvaged and re purposed.
The Brock Magiscope® is the only microscope still made in America. Witnessing Brock’s success, the foreign manufactures, mainly China and India, tried to cash in on Brock's revolutionary design. Many copies have come and gone.
Here we have the American inventor making a better mouse trap only to face copies that were 1/3 the cost. There was however a secret to Brock’s success. He was not concerned about price, he sought only to make the best child’s microscope on the planet. It’s good to know that quality and integrity are not easily copied.
Brock did in fact have one more ace up his sleeve in regards to the Magiscope®. He had design for a fool proof fine adjustment that would add a function without adding an additional part. It was time for the Model #70 to appear.
Model #70 – A Star Is Born…
While the rest of the world was learning from Brock's designs, and trying to replicate their own versions, the Brock Magiscope® evolved an additional advantage.
A Fine Adjustment...
At a higher magnification, everything becomes more complicated. In particular, focusing becomes exponentially more difficult. The Model 60, although a fine and elegant piece, lacked the ability to fine focus.
How could that feature be added without adding additional moving parts? The answer was the fine focusing ramp that was incorporated into a new Model.
Essentially, Brock added a fine adjustment without adding any additional parts.
With this ability, the Brock Magiscope® became a complete optical system built to last and designed to be used by anyone, anywhere, and on anything.
We at Brock have attempted to estimate how many folks have looked through our Magiscope® in the 30 years since it’s inception in 1987.
Allowing for every scenario from the home schooling families where the scope never leaves the house, to well known science institutions like the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences where 3,000 kids a month used them for years.
This led us to the following conclusion… that approximately 20 Million people have been inspired by looking though a Brock Magiscope® in the last few decades. That makes it perhaps the Magiscope® the most popular microscope of all time.
In the future…
Brock Magiscope® has been basically the same for three decades and we intend to keep it that way. We still make them by hand, one at a time under Mr. Brock’s direct supervision.
Because we make microscopes there are things we can do for our clients that others cannot. Everything from customizing the Model 70 focusing to work at even higher power, to creating science exhibits is achievable. We can even paint it your school colors if you want. The Brock Magiscope® supports several small American companies in its manufacturing.
Proudly made in America since 1980.
ABOUT THE INVENTOR DENNIS BROCK
It’s impossible to tell the story of the Magiscope’s creation without first talking about the man whose name has become synonymous “the world’s finest child’s microscope”. There are a very small percentage of people in this world who succeed in spite of tremendous odds against them. Dennis Brock is one of them.
Raised in poverty in a severely dysfunctional family, Dennis was often in trouble at school. Never fitting in was a common reality for him and this persistent isolation led to the love for reading and the knowledge one could obtain from books. There was no money for encyclopedia (the computer of the day), getting food was hard enough. Dennis discovered that he wanted to learn everything he could from books even if he had to beg, borrow or steal. He created his own library in cardboard boxes and the damp basement of a Philadelphia row house. His interest covered all phases of science, wood crafting, wild plants, history, aviation, animals and medicine. Many of his books were borrowed from the Free Library of Philadelphia. Young Dennis would borrow the books and find it impossible to return them (after all it was called the “Free Library”).
At age 14, Dennis had saved enough money to buy a cheap banjo for $150 at 8th Street Music in Philly. He also bought Pete Seeger’s book How to Play the Five String Banjo and taught himself how to play. His ability to learn skills from books repeated itself many times throughout his lifetime. His troubled home life and increasing awareness that he wasn’t like everyone else eventually got him kicked out of high school at age 16. He was the president of his class at the time in hoping to become a veterinarian one day. His official crime for being expelled was for being a truant (he used to take Monday’s off as teachers would say). Basically, he hated school. He could not tolerate some of the teachers that were merely occupying space; he could not ignore the bullying and the other nasty games that children played. Somehow through no fault of his own, he had become an adult before his time. His best teachers were well behind him in elementary school and it had been all down hill from there. He had his best teacher in sixth grade who allowed him to conduct his own science experiments before the class. Her name was Mrs.Voron – he never knew her first name. As soon as he legally could, he left school. He had learned how to finish wood from reading books and put an ad in the local paper for furniture refinishing. Sometimes when things look pretty bleak it may be that opportunity is about to knock at your door. In 1974, at age 24, Dennis was about to join the Musician’s Union in Philadelphia and make a real attempt at becoming a professional musician. However, reality was demanding a more immediate solution to his economic situation. He had to get a real job and he wasn’t making much fixing furniture on his own. He had to suspend his desire to be self employed.
The name Carl Zeiss has always been the top name in optics particularly in microscopes. Philly had five medical schools and enough research labs to keep an instrument repair man busy for centuries. There was only one Zeiss dealer in the area at the time. It was owned by an eccentric Hungarian who ran it out of his mansion. Just at that time, Zeiss demanded that the Philadelphia Zeiss dealer get a repairman. Fate led Dennis to their tiny ad in the paper. Over a dozen applicants were screened and Dennis got the job and a chance to work for practically nothing to repair the most sophisticated microscopes on the planet with little or no training.
Being a quick study and winning over older people in the field led to Dennis’ learning everything he could about every make and model of microscope there was. He worked on metalagraphs, photomicroscopes, forensic microscopes, industrial and surgical microscopes – anything with an eyepiece and objective. Microscopes came from many countries back then. Besides Germany, they came from England, Italy, Austria and even Polish microscopes – Dennis worked on all of them.
This eventually led to the modification of existing stands and stages for specialized applications. He also attended several factory training seminars and workshops on subjects like polarized light, fluorescence and differential interference contrast. No one ever suspected that he left school at 16.
It was at this point in his life that he decided to make his own microscope and go back to taking the risk of being self employed. He always wanted to be an inventor and this was his time. He was repairing and selling microscopes in Orlando, Florida at the time.