R. M. Stainforth
The Micropaleontologist 1949 - 3:2:29

There are many gainful occupations which require the worker to maintain a certain posture for long periods. In each branch of productive activity thus affected a set of equipment has gradually evolved with the function of allowing the craftsman to concentrate all his manual skill on the main objective. The carpenter’s bench, the draftsman’s adjustable table or a one-man bus-driver’s seat may be cited as examples. The essentials of satisfactory working equipment are physical comfort and convenience. Large industrial concerns even have experts to consider such matters as colour of walls, type of artificial lighting and desirability of background music in relation to optimum efficiency of their operatives.

In contrast it has struck me, in visiting or working at a number of commercial laboratories of late, how little attention most micropaleontologists pay to a comfortable and efficient setting for their work. Microscopes and their accessories have been manufactured with constant attention to the comfort of their users in such matters as inclined oculars, low angle of convergence in binoculars, wide-field objectives, and so on, but the average micro man seems content to nullify this by perching his instrument on any odd desk or table, sitting on the handiest chair and working at his samples in a cramped, abnormal posture with his back stretched or huddled, his chest constricted, and the full weight of his head and shoulders taken on the points of his elbows on a hard wooden surface. This Spartan attitude speaks well for his devotion to duty, but it is not really necessary. A few hours suffice to convert an uncomfortable set-up into a place at which microscopic work can be performed by the hour with no more fatigue than writing letters at a desk.

It was in Guayaquil that I first encountered the microscopist’s bench to be described here, and I suspect that it was introduced by Mr. F. V. Stevenson, now in Colombia, though in saying this I may be wronging Dr. H. E. Thalmann, now in Venezuela. There are only two salient points, the first being a bay cut into the table or desk top to be used. This bay must be just wide enough to accommodate one’s chest when seated at the table, and must be cut inwards from six to mine inches, The second point is to provide a dropped recess just large enough for the microscope to fit snugly, the slide platform flush with and virtually a part of the working surface. The advantages of a bench so constructed lie in the comfortable working position; one’s back is more erect and the weight of head and shoulders is taken on the whole forearms resting on a flat surface, whilst the hands are free for manipulation. All the manipulative work is in one plane so that a set of slides can be examined by sliding them under the microscope with no raising and lowering.

Dimensions are not given because they should be chosen with regard to the individual concerned. In general, the working surface should be a couple of inches higher than a comfortable writing desk, and chair height should be determined experimentally. An adjustable swivel chair has several advantages. For final convenience a rack should be provided to give finger-tip access to a selection of slides and accessories, leaving the bench top free for work in progress. As outlined above, the bench is specially intended for top-light work on washed residues and loose microfossils, but with slight modification for transmitted light the same principle can be applied to thin section studies.