Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,151 pages of information and 233,681 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

James Swift and Son

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1947. Universal-Technical Microscope.

James Swift and Son, microscope makers, of 81 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1. Telephone: Museum 0609. Cables: "Prisms, London"

1853 Company founded by James Powell Swift, based in East London.

1884 Mansell James Swift, son of James Powell, joined the company.

1881 Improvements to microscope design; replacement of the straight rack and pinion focusing to helical cut components and a new fine focus system.

1891 First petrological microscope introduced using fixed stage and revolving coupled polarizer-analyzer.

1901 Captain Scott was supplied with Swift microscopes for use on the R.R.S. Discovery for the 1901-1904 expedition, named in the catalogue of the time as the 'Discovery' model.

1903 Mansell Powell John Swift, grandson of the founder, joined the company.

1906 The founder of the company, James Powell Swift, died.

1912 Incorporated as a limited company.

1942 Mansell Powell died on 12 October, aged 56.

1942 Mansell James died a day later, on 13 October, aged 88, from the shock of his son's death.

1944 Premises at Tottenham Court Road, London badly damaged by a German V1 flying bomb.

1946 E. R. Watts and Son Ltd took over the company, mainly due to the association between the Watts and Swift families in earlier years.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Microscopes for Biology, Mineralogy, Metallurgy, and Accessory Apparatus. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. A.1029) [1]

1949 John H. Bassett joined the company from a background in electrical and electronic industries, microscopy was 'completely new' to him but the optical world created an 'interesting challenge'.

1953 Bassett introduced the 'Model P' polarizing microscope with variants the 'Model S' (biological) and 'Model M' (metallurgical) all based on a common stand; the 'Model S' faced stiff competition but the 'Model P' did well.

1959 Bassett proposed new designs to replace the 'Model P' but the directors felt it unwise to pursue further designs because of greater competition and did not take up the challenge; Bassett left the company.

1968 Bassett, having been successful in running his own microscope business for some years, being an agent to the major microscope manufacturers of the era, purchased the company J. Swift and Son Ltd.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Microscopy-UK