Robert Drosten, ca. 1855 - ca. 1920

by Brian Stevenson
last updated November, 2019

Robert Drosten, of Brussels, Belgium, was a retailer of bacteriological, chemical, photographic, and other scientific supplies and equipment. He was an experienced microscopist, and a member of the Société Belge de Microscopie, so it very likely that microscope slides with Drosten’s labels were made by him (Figure 1). From the time Drosten established his business, ca. 1880, he was the Belgian distributor for Carl Zeiss microscopes and other optics (Figures 2 and 3).

Little has been found about Robert Drosten’s life. The earliest known records date from 1883, when he was elected to membership in the Société Belge de Microscopie (Figure 4). He was already established as a distributor for Zeiss at that time (Figure 5). Drosten’s 1885 display at l'Exposition Universelle d'Anvers included “prèparations microscopiques”, and an 1886 note in Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Mikroskopie und Mikroskopische Technik stated “Drosten hat ausserdem ein reichhaltiges Lager von allen möglichen mikroskopischen Präparaten” (“Drosten has a rich stock of all kinds of microscopic preparations”). Drosten won a Gold Medal at the 1888 Grand Concours International de Sciences in Brussels, and a Diploma of Honor at the 1905 Exposition Liège. The last known records of Drosten and his business are from 1914, around the time of the outbreak of World War 1. It is likely that his business would have been severely affected by the warfare in Belgium.

Figure 1. A ca. 1880s Robert Drosten microscope slide of “Asiatic cholera bacillus Koch” (Vibrio cholerae). A skilled microscopist, Drosten likely made this slide himself. Robert Koch (1843-1910) determined that this bacterium was the cause of cholera in 1884, during his studies in India.


Figure 2. A Zeiss Stand V dissecting microscope, bearing a retail plate from Robert Drosten. With serial number 36911, this instrument was manufactured in 1903. Images adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from


Figure 3. A Zeiss Stand VIa compound microscope, with Robert Drosten’s retail label inside the case. It bears serial number 8672, indicating construction in 1885. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site.


Figure 4. Robert Drosten was elected to membership in the Belgian Society of Microscopy in 1883.


Figure 5. A footnote in Charles-Henri Delogne’s 1883 “Flore Cryptogamique de Belgique” stated that Drosten was already a distributor for Carl Zeiss’ microscopes (“For any purchase of instruments, please contact Mr. R. Drosten, rue Woeringen, 4, Brussels, representative of Karl Zeiss of Jena”).


Figure 6. An 1885 advertisement, from “Journal de Micrographie”.


Figure 7. Front cover and page on Zeiss microscopes from Robert Drosten’s 1898 catalogue. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from


Figure 8. A 1913 advertisement, from “Association Belge de Photographie Bulletin”.



Annales de la Société Belge de Microscopie (1883) Election of Robert Drosten, Vol. 11, page 83

Annales de la Société Belge de Microscopie (1900) Advertisement from Robert Drosten, Vol. 24

Association Belge de Photographie Bulletin (1908) Advertisement from Robert Drosten, Vol. 35

Bulletin de la Société Belge d'Électriciens (1884) “Drosten, représentant de la maison Leyboldt, de Cologne, rue Woeringen, 2, Bruxelles”, Vol. 1, page xiii

Congrès International de Chimie Appliquée, Bruxelles-Anvers (1894) Advertisement from Robert Drosten

Delogne, Charles-Henri (1883) Flore Cryptogamique de Belgique, Société Belge de Microscopie, Brussels, page 24

Directory of Belgian Photographers (accessed November, 2019) Robert Drosten,

Drosten, Robert (1898) Catalogue des Appareils & Ustensiles Divers pour la Pharmacie et le Laboratoire Droguerie, Médicine, etc.

La Galerie des Machines a l'Exposition Universelle d'Anvers (1885) “Drosten, Robert, 21, rue des Boiteux, Bruxelles”, page 31

Gubas, Lawrence J. (2009) A Survey of Zeiss Microscopes 1846-1945, Gubas, Las Vegas

Journal de Micrographie (1885) Advertisement from Robert Drosten, Vol. 9, advertising section

Lameere, Auguste (1891) Advertisement from Robert Drosten, L'Origine des Vertébrés, A. Manceaux, Brussels

The Scientist's International Directory (1905) “Drosten, Robert. Fabricant d'Appareils de Mic, 23 Rue des Boiteux, Bruxelles”, Cassino, Boston, page 34

Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Mikroskopie und Mikroskopische Technik (1886) Vol. 3, page 23