Henry Meller, 1864 - 1922

by Brian Stevenson
last updated April, 2024

At different times in his life, Henry Meller worked as a professional slide maker, dealer of anatomical specimens, museum curator, and optician. He was located in the area of Manchester, England. Between 1889 and 1890, Meller advertised to sell microscope slides of histological and embryological specimens (Figures 1-3). An 1895 book on physiology also recommended Meller as a source of slides. Records suggest that Meller’s slide business probably ended toward the end of the 1890s.

Figure 1. “Rat embryo through thorax”, by Henry Meller. He advertised this specimen in 1889 (see Figure 2 and text below).


Figure 2. Advertisements by Henry Meller, from 1889 and 1890 issues of “Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip”.


Figure 3. An 1889 advertisement, from “The Annual Report and Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society”.


Henry Meller was born during the spring of 1864, in Hulme, which was then on the southern outskirts of Manchester. He was the fourth of eight children, and the fourth son, of John and Emma Meller. Father John worked as a “pattern maker”, meaning that he built wooden forms that were used to make moulds for casting metal items.

While his brothers and sisters took up more manual occupations, Henry became a “clerk” and “chemical student”, according to the 1881 census.

He married Sarah Amelia Ann Tootill on September 1, 1888, at the Stratford, Lancashire Parish Church. Their marriage record listed Henry’s occupation as “laboratory assistant”.

Henry’s interests had evidently taken a turn toward biology. It was reported in 1889 that the Zoological Station of Naples, Italy, had sent him a specimen of a Polyophthalmus aquatic worm.

By 1889, Meller was producing microscope slides in a professional capacity. In April of that year, he announced that he would begin supplying a series of slides, “illustrating the development of the chick from 12 hours upwards” (Figure 2). Those slides were ready for sale the following month, along with slides of sectioned embryonic rats and hatched chicks.

The August, 1889, issue of Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip announced, “New slides: from Mr. H. Meller, Stockport Road, Manchester, we have received three remarkable slides of objects: one, a transverse section of a tadpole's eye; a second, a similar section of the embryo of a rat, through the thorax and fore limbs ; and the third, the section of the chick, two days old”. The slide by Meller that is shown in Figure 1 probably dates from this time.

In October of that year, he showed a “series of embryological slides, illustrating the development of the chick” at a meeting of the Manchester Microscopical Society, then donated the set to the MMS. Although he lived in Manchester, Meller does not appear to have become a member of the MMS. This suggests that he was more interested in selling slides and other scientific equipment than he was in discussing the minutiae of microscopes.

The 1891 census recorded Henry Meller’s occupation as “microtomist & osteologist”.

An 1895 book, Elementary Physiology by J.R.A. Davis, recommended that “Good prepared slides at a reasonable price can be obtained from H. Meller, anatomist, 2 Churchill Street, Stockport Road, Manchester”, and “Skeletons or parts of them can be obtained at a reasonable price from H. Meller, anatomist, 2 Churchill Street, Stockport Road, Manchester”.

Meller’s slide business may have ended by the end of the 1890s.

The 1901 census listed his occupation as “museum curator & anatomist”. This is clarified by the 1908 baptism record of his son, where Henry’s occupation was recorded as “museum curator at St. Mary’s Hospital”.

During that time, Henry’s wife, Sarah, died, in March of 1906. Henry established a relationship with Margaret Glendinning. It was their son who was born on November 22, 1907 and baptized in 1908. The 1911 census listed Margaret as Henry’s wife, with a note that they had been married for 4 years. In actuality, they were not married until 1918.

Henry Meller’s career took another turn in the early 1900s. The 1909 Slater’s Manchester Directory listed him as an “optician", residing at 158 Radnor Street, Hulme. The 1911 census recorded his occupation as “optician & pathologist”, working on his own account.

Margaret died in April, 1921. Henry Meller died in June, 1922.

Figure 4. Transverse section through the thorax of a rat embryo, prepared ca. 1889 by Henry Mellor (see Figure 1). The spinal cord is seen in the lower center, surrounded by a vertebra. Imaged with a 3.5x objective lens and C-mounted digital SLR camera on a Leitz Ortholux II microscope.



Bracegirdle, Brian (1998) Microscopical Mounts and Mounters, Quekett Microscopical Club, London, page 66

Davis, James Richard Ainsworth (1895) Elementary Physiology, Blackie & Son, Glasgow, pages 169-170 and 191

England census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1889) Advertisements from H. Meller, advertising section, April, May, and December issues

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1890) Advertisements from H. Meller, advertising section, February, March, and May issues

Kelly’s Directory of Manchester (1895) Churchill Street, “2 Meller Henry, anatomist”, page 99

Report of the Annual Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1888) On the Zoological Station at Naples, page 161

Slater’s Manchester Directory (1909) Opticians, “Meller Henry, 158 Radnor st. H”, page 1734

Transactions and Annual Report of the Manchester Microscopical Society (1889) pages xiii and xxiii

Transactions and Annual Report of the Manchester Microscopical Society (1889) Advertisement from H. Meller, advertising section