John Cross Hutcheson, 1843 – 1921

by Brian Stevenson
last updated July, 2010

John C. Hutcheson is probably best known today for his microscope slides of diatoms and other aquatic life (Figure 1). Hutcheson was an amateur microscopist, apparently making slides for his own enjoyment and for exchange with other people. He advertised extensively for slide exchanges in the popular scientific magazine Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip between 1872 and 1875 (Figure 2). The two diatom slides illustrated in Figure 1 date from that period.

Figure 1. Two microscope slides made by John C. Hutcheson. Both are strews of mixed diatoms species, and would have been very simple to prepare. Both slides match the descriptions of slides advertised by Hutcheson for exchange in 1873 (see Figure 2E and H). The notation “CB” indicates that the diatoms were mounted in Canada balsam. The black circle on the right slide was apparently added by an owner.


Figure 2. Exchange offers from John Hutcheson advertised in Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip between 1869 and 1875, including descriptions of all his offered microscope slides. I did not find any detailed information on Hutcheson’s involvement with microscopy after 1875. (A) 1869. Hutcheson’s exchange offers between 1869 and the beginning of 1872 dealt only with plants/dried plants. (B) 1872, Hutcheson’s first offer to exchange microscope slides. (C) 1872. (D) 1873. A slide of this same subject was acquired from Hutcheson by Edward Ward, apparently in 1871 (see Figure 3). (E) 1873. A slide containing this mixture of diatoms is shown in Figure 1, left. (F) 1873. (G) 1873. (H) A slide containing this mixture of diatoms is shown in Figure 1, right. (I) 1873. (J) 1874, appeared one time that year. Essentially the same, vague exchange offer appeared once during 1875.


John Hutcheson was born 1 April, 1843 in Glasgow, Scotland. He was the second son and third child of James and Frances Manson Hutcheson. Three additional siblings followed. Father James and his brother, George, owned J & G Hutcheson, a cotton yarn company. During the 1850s, the Hutcheson family moved from 64 Buccleuch St. to 8 Lansdowne Crescent, also in Glasgow. John Hutcheson lived in that house until he died, at the age of 78.

By 1861, John was working as a “mercantile clerk”, quite likely in his father’s business. The 1871 census recoded him as being a “warehouse salesman”, again probably working for his father. John’s father, James, died in 1874, although the family remained fairly well off. At least one, and usually two, servant and cook was recorded as living with the Hutcheson family on all censuses. I have not located John Hutcheson on the 1881 census. The 1891 census, his 1897 marriage record and his 1921 death record state his occupation to have been “iron founder”. According to Eunson (1989), this was the Gowanbank Foundry in Glasgow.

The earliest record of Hutcheson’s involvement in scientific studies is an 1869 exchange offer that he posted in Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (Figure 2A). That ad, and several others over the next 3 years, requested exchanges of plants. Beginning in 1872, Hutcheson posted exchange offers for microscope slides, initially of sponge spicules, but later to include diatoms, fern tissues, mollusk radula and other items (Figure 2B-J). In 1873, he offered to exchange mounts of “case of melicerta ringens” (Floscularia ringens). Edward Ward, at that time an amateur microscopist, repapered a microscope slide with that description, and labeled it as having been obtained from J.C. Hutchinson (sic) (Figure 3). Ward dated the slide 1872, suggesting that Hutcheson posted exchange offers in other, as-yet unidentified magazines.

Figure 3. A microscope slide of “case of melicerta ringens”. The slide was re-papered by Edward Ward, who noted that he received it from J.C. Hutchinson (sic).


Hutcheson’s Science-Gossip exchange requests ended near the time of his father’s death, with offers appearing once each in 1874 and 1875. This may have been due to Hutcheson having to devote more time to work and less to play after his father’s death. Alternatively, he may have inherited money such that he could readily purchase slides, rather than spend time making them for exchange.

Hutcheson was listed in The Naturalists’ Directory for many years, through at least 1905. He was noted as being involved with microscopy. I have not located any further records that could add details.

In April, 1884, a colleague of Hutcheson’s made a presentation of their work to the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow: “Dr. James J. Dobbie gave a ‘Demonstration of an easy and rapid Method of determining the Specific Gravity of Solids’, invented by Mr. John C. Hutcheson and himself, for which the authors received the thanks of the Society”. This may have been an offshoot of Hutcheson’s work with the iron foundry.

John was elected a member of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow in late 1899: “The Chairman intimated that Mr. John C. Hutcheson, Iron founder, 8 Lansdowne Crescent, had been duly elected a Member of the Society, on the recommendation of Dr. M'Millan, Professor Henderson, and Dr. Fergus”.

A book of photographs by John Hutcheson was published in 1989 by Eric Eunson, entitled Crail, 1889.

John Hutcheson married Helen Campbell Moodie in 1897, when he was 54 and she was 35. Until that date, John’s two unmarried sisters, both also in their 50s, had lived with him at 8 Lansdowne Crescent. After John’s marriage, the sisters moved to Glasgow Kelvinside. John’s wife died some time prior to 1921. John died November 29, 1921, from colon cancer, at the age of 78.

Figure 4. Photograph of John C. Hutcheson, date unknown. Reproduced from the book Crail 1889, by Eric Eunson, by permission of Stenlake and McCourt, publishers.


Note: the microscopist John C. Hutcheson should not be confused with another, more famous Scot. John Conroy Hutcheson was a noted author of adventure stories such as The Wreck of the Nancy Bell: Or Cast away on Kerguelen Land and Picked up at Sea: Or the Gold Miners of Minturne Creek.



Bracegirdle, Brian (1998) Microscopical Mounts and Mounters, Quekett Microscopical Club, London

Death record of John Cross Hutcheson (1921)

Eunson, Eric (1989) Crail, 1889, Stenlake and McCourt, Glasgow

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1869) Exchange offers, Vol. 5, page 24

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1870) Exchange offers, Vol. 6, page 24

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1871) Exchange offers, Vol. 7, page 216

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1872) Exchange offers, Vol. 8, pages 24, 48, 95, 192 and 264

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1873) Exchange offers, Vol. 9, pages 24, 48, 96, 120, 144 and 192

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1874) Exchange offers, Vol. 10, page 120

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1875) Exchange offers, Vol. 11, page 96

Mach, Martin (2002) Floscularia – one more famous marvel of pond life, Micscape, July

The Naturalists’ Directory (1888) page 231

The Naturalists’ Directory (1890) page 9

The Naturalists’ Directory (1896) page 305

The Naturalists’ Directory (1905) page 302

Post Office Glasgow Directory (1863) Entries for James and George Hutcheson, page 158

Post Office Glasgow Directory (1866) Entries for James and George Hutcheson, page 181

Proceedings of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (1884) The Tenth Ordinary Meeting for Session 1883-84, 2 April, Vol. 15, page 384

Proceedings of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (1900) The Fifth Ordinary Meeting of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, for Session 1899-1900, Vol. 31, pages 198-199

Proceedings of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (1908) List of members, Vol. 39, page 253

Scotland census records, accessed through

Scotland census, birth, marriage and death records, accessed through the Scotland General records Office,