Robert Bygott, 1835 - 1906

by Brian Stevenson
last updated February, 2021

Robert Bygott was a lawyer in Sandbach, Cheshire, and an enthusiastic microscopist from the early 1880s onward. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1881, then joined the Postal Microscopical Society in 1882 and the Manchester Microscopical Society in 1883. A number of Bygott's microscope slides have survived, which are neatly prepared and carry his custom-printed label (Figure 1).

Figure 1. A ca. 1895 microscope slide by Robert Bygott, of starch granules that were extracted from a faba (fava) broad bean. Several additional Bygott slides can be seen on line at, most of which are also of different types of starches. Starch granules from different sources tend to be of different sizes and structures. Pharmacists often needed to identify botanicals such as starches, as ingredients or contaminants in medicines or foodstuffs, and a set of slides with various starches would be a useful reference tool. Perhaps Bygott also had professional need of identifying sources of starches? Background photomicrograph was taken with a 10x objective lens, crossed polarizing filters, and a C-mounted digital SLR camera.


Robert Bygott was born in late 1835, and christened on December 15, 1835, in Barton-on-Humber, Lincolnshire. He was the second son of James and Alice Bygott. James was a prosperous farmer, owning 270 acres and employing 6 men and a boy at the time of the 1851 census. The Bygott family also enjoyed the services of two domestic servants.

Robert trained as a solicitor, then established a practice in Sandbach. In 1858, he married Anna Buckley of Congleton, Cheshire. The couple had at least 11 children over the next 19 years.

The microscope "bug" hit Bygott had in the early 1880s. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society on November 9, 1881, joined the Postal Microscopical Society the following March, then the Manchester Microscopical Society in 1883. He remained a Fellow of the RMS through at least 1892 – considering that the slide shown in Figure 1 and those in the Bononiae Collection do not include "F.R.M.S." on the labels, it is possible that they were produced before 1881 or after he left the RMS (which would have been later than 1892). I have not found records of Bygott attending a meeting of the RMS (London is some 180 miles / 130km from Sandbach, which today is an 8-10 hour train ride), although his membership would have given him ready access to the society's journals and other resources. In contrast, Manchester is about 28 miles / 45 km from Sandbach, and he likely attended meetings. The Postal Microscopical Society is an ideal resource for microscopists in far-flung locations, with packets of a wide variety of microscope slides posted among a circuit of members.

Robert Bygott passed away on March 16, 1906. His obituary from The Law Society's Gazette, "Bygott, Robert, the head of the firm of Messrs. Robert Bygott & Sons, of Sandbach, Cheshire, died on the 16th ult., aged 70 years. Mr. Bygott was clerk to the special sessions for the Hundred of Northwich and clerk to the Magistrates and to the Commissioners of Taxes for the Northwich Division. He was admitted in 1857".



Bononiae Microscope Collection (accessed February, 2021)

England census and other records

Journal of Microscopy and Natural Science (1882) List of Members, Vol. 1

Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society (1881) New Fellows, page 980

Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society (1892) Fellows

The Law Society's Gazette (1906) Bygott, Robert, Vol. 3, page 75

Transactions and Annual Report of the Manchester Microscopical Society (1883) Members