Optician Andrew Ross was born in London in 1798, and attended Christ Church School until the age of 14. He then became an apprentice to an optician named Gilbert who specialized in making telescopes. The young apprentice soon became manager, but wanted to make microscopes and microscope objectives and so he left Gilbert to start his own company. He improved microscope objectives by correcting chromatic and spherical aberrations, the balance of which could be disturbed because of varying thicknesses over the covering glass. With the addition of a screw collar, Mr. Ross discovered he could alter the distance between the sets of achromatics that composed the objective. This remarkable improvement was met with immediate international acceptance.
Mr. Ross then began examining the published changes Joseph Petzval had suggested for photographic portrait lenses, and applied them in the construction of his own compound lens in 1841. When painter Henry Collen sought a high-aperture portrait lens, he went to the Ross factory for assistance. Unfortunately, Mr. Ross was unsuccessful in his attempt, and thereafter elected to turn over the lensmaking part of his business to his son Thomas and his apprentice John Henry Dallmeyer. Mr. Dallmeyer would later become his employer's son-in-law with his marriage to Hannah Ross.
Although portrait lenses held an early professional fascination for Andrew Ross, his first loves were telescopes and microscopes respectively. During his lifetime, he was revered as the foremost authority on microscopes, and was a frequent contributor to the Society of Arts' scientific publications. He also penned the article "Microscope" that was featured in the Penny Cyclopedia. Despite his great intellect, Mr. Ross could write about microscopes in a concise manner that could be easily understood by the layperson.
Throughout his illustrious career, Andrew Ross received many awards including two Gold Isis Medals for his work on improving microscope achromatic object glasses and for the development of a polishing powder for optician use. He also received recognition for his barometer construction, and was awarded a jury-service medal in 1851 for his superior microscope construction and his equatorial telescope. Andrew Ross' sudden death on September 8, 1859 at the age of 61 came as a huge shock to the scientific world. After Mr. Ross' passing, there seemed to be some dispute among his two closest associates - his son and his son-in-law - as to who would succeed him. Although Thomas Ross managed the business, J. H. Dallmeyer regarded himself as Andrew Ross' rightful successor. Eventually, the two men went their separate ways, and Thomas Ross later developed the successful Doublets camera lenses that were based upon his father's earlier failed Collen lenses.
1860 The Photographic Journal, Vol. VI (London: Taylor and Francis), p. 49.
1861 The New American Cyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, Vol. XI (New York: D. Appleton and Company), p. 476.
1862 The British Journal of Photography,Vol. X (Liverpool: Henry Greenwood), p. 261.
1886 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XVII (New York: E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 605.
1875 The British Journal of Photography, Vol. XXII (Liverpool: Henry Greenwood), pp. 150-151.
1989 A History of the Photographic Lens (San Diego: Academic Press), p. 271.
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