Leukemia Under the Lens, 1845

Alfred Donné’s microscopic daguerreotypes described the cellular symptoms of leukemia for the first time.


In 1837, over the objections of skeptical colleagues, Alfred François Donné set up 20 microscopes at his own expense in the lecture hall of the Medical Faculty of Paris. There, he provided practical microscopy lessons to students. His goal was to make microscopy a standard part of medical practice, an aim he had already championed with the invention of a foldable pocket microscope.

When Louis Daguerre presented his brand-new photographic technique in 1839, Donné leapt at the chance to modify it to capture his microscopic images to spice up his lectures to ever-growing audiences. Donné’s adoption of such cutting-edge technology established him as a pioneer in the use of photographs—rather than hand-drawn sketches—to communicate scientific discoveries.


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