Leonard Quartus Sandall, 1870 - 1959

by Brian Stevenson
last updated April, 2023

Leonard Sandall was an enthusiastic amateur microscopist throughout most of his life. He joined the Quekett Microscopical Club in 1892, the Royal Microscopical Society in 1903, and the Postal Microscopical Society in 1905. He served as Secretary of the PMS for 30 years, from 1906 until 1936.

Figure 1. Microscope slides that were prepared by Leonard Sandall. Both are uncovered dry-mounts, using double-layered cardstock. Absence of a cover slip allows the microscopist to get extremely close views of the specimens with high-powered objective lenses. The “jew lizard” is Pogona barbata, of southeastern Australia, also known as the eastern bearded dragon / bearded lizard. From the author’s collection or adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site.


Figure 2. Photographs of Leonard Sandall. (Left) Adapted from Quelch, 2008. Sandall wrote in 1914 that he possessed a Watson & Sons “Royal” microscope, which appears to be the instrument shown in this photograph. (Right) Adapted from "Balsam Post", 2023.


Leonard Quartus Sandall was born on April 24, 1870, in the Camberwell section of London. His middle name is probably due to him being the fourth child of Henry and Lydia Jane Sandall. Father Henry was a surveyor and senior partner in businesses involved with construction around London. Census records indicate that the Sandall family employed domestic servants. Henry died in 1884, when only 45 years old.

Leonard was apprenticed to a pharmacist in Romford, Essex, in 1888. The 1891 census shows him living alone in the Victoria Road chemist’s shop. After four years of apprenticeship, Leonard began schooling in medicine at the Charing Cross Hospital. A few years later, he wrote of an experience with strychnine poisoning while he “was reading for an examination” during his medical studies, circa 1893 (the full letter is printed at the end of this essay). Sandall left medical school early, then worked for several years at pharmacies in the London area.

On November 18, 1892, Leonard joined the Quekett Microscopical Club. He was listed in the membership roll of 1897, but not 1899.

In 1898, Sandall moved to Lingfield, Surrey, to work as a pharmaceutical “dispenser” for a medical practice there.

During the summer of 1900, Leonard married Ethel Amy Newton. They had one child, a son.

Sandall joined the Royal Microscopical Society in 1903, but dropped out shortly afterward.

He joined the Postal Microscopical Society in 1905. Evidently, this group was more to Sandal’s tastes. He became Secretary in 1906, and remained in that position until 1936.

A 1907 note in the magazine Country-Side described the PMS, “Some readers having inquired for particulars of the ‘Postal Microscopical Society’, I am able, by the courtesy of the secretary, to give the following information regarding that useful organization. It provides for microscopists (after they have passed the quite elementary stage of the study) opportunities for comparing notes with fellow-workers, and a medium for the exchange of mutual advice on associated matters. Each member contributes a dozen objects each year, together with illustrative notes, in a book provided for the purpose. These together circulate from member to member, who add to the notes any information that they may possess. The subscription to the Society is 5s yearly, certainly not an exorbitant sum. The president is the Rev. Gordon Grist, of Cradley, Malvern, and the secretary Mr. Leonard Sandall, of Oak Cottage, the Common, Lingfield, Surrey."

Sandall wrote of his excitement for microscopy in a 1914 letter to the English Mechanic and World of Science, “A microscopical evening - A few evenings ago I had the great pleasure of a visit from two microscopists and Quekett Club men - Chas. E. Heath, F.R.M.S. and Chas H. Huish, F.R.M.S. soon had the table cleared for action, and on it I placed my best in the may of micro. objectives and slides, and with a quick movement I pushed everything in front of truly this ‘magician of the microscope’, Chas. Heath. It was marvellous, the rapidity and dexterity with which he manipulated the microscope to get critical illumination. He demonstrated little refinements and adjustments in my own instrument (a Watson's ‘Royal’, which to me is a ‘mine of resource’), and which were hidden from me, or I might say not troubled about. He showed us diatoms in a way which we had never seen before. They were lovely. The lighting was perfect, and the dark-ground all that could be desired. I was having valuable practical instruction and hints all the time. We looked at numbers of slides, and then Chas. Huish produced his exquisite mounts of ‘myxies’, and we looked at them. He is an enthusiast in this branch of microscopical research (the Mycetozoa), and, by his studies and large collection of beautiful specimens, must surely be looked upon as an authority. As the evening, sped on, and the camphine lamp burnt low, we left the table to sit round the fire and talk, and I think we touched on and discussed the most important points in modern microscopical practice, not forgetting the good work which was being done by the Postal Microscopical Society. Leonard Sandall, Hon. Sec. Postal Microscopical Society, Lingfield.

Sue Quelch wrote a brief biography of Leonard Sandall, which makes reference to his personal notebooks. “He was a dedicated microscopist, always ready to help other enthusiasts. He was also a prolific writer of notebooks, many of which are now preserved in the Society’s archives. All his spare time was spent studying in his work-room and lab preparing and mounting slides, examining all kinds of material and preserving them in tubes and boxes. He also corresponded with fellow naturalists, regularly sending microscopic slides out to members of the Society, answering letters and pursuing his studies in fresh-water biology. … He records with fondness his work with the Postal Microscopical Society and the friendships he made. ‘Thousands of slides passed through my hands and all kinds of objectives and apparatus was sent me for examination and an opinion – all this activity was a great delight to me’. He talks of the pond-life outings, photographic sessions, picnics, bicycle rides, car rides, train rides that he and his friends took, all concentrating on obtaining microscopical material. … In his 1948 notebook he mentions writing this book during war-time bombing raids. He could not send his microscopical slides out to members during the war because of the risk of being broken and so sent out his little note-books instead.

Sandall opened his own pharmaceutical shop in 1926, located in the nearby village of Dormansland. The 1939 Register of England and Wales notes that the 70 year-old Sandall was a “proprietor of drug store, shut up shop in Dormansland”. It is not clear whether the “shutting up” of his shop was permanent or temporary, perhaps associated with the outbreak of World War 2. His obituary in The Microscope states that Sandall retired in 1945.

Wife Ethel Amy died in 1934, at the age of 57.

Quelch states that “In 1942, aged 72, he wrote a book ‘Fifty Years a Microscopist’ looking back on his studies and in which he hoped to ‘excite a taste and create a stimulus for more serious work and interest in this most absorbing and delightful study’.” I have not found further information on that book by Sandall.

Leonard Sandall pursued his studies in fresh-water biology and was still corresponding with a wide circle of fellow naturalists right up to the time of his death in 1959 aged 88”, according to Quelch.




Letter from Leonard Sandall on his unintentional self-poisoning, 1896:

An overdose of strychnine.
To the Editors of The Lancet,
Sirs, In The Lancet of Feb. 29th was an account of a medical practitioner's unpleasant experiences after an overdose of ‘strychnine’. It interested me very much, as I have had a similar experience of the ‘tetanus’, a short account of which I send you, as another added to almost a rare occurrence. Three years ago I was reading for an examination (~1893), and feeling ‘run down’ I took 10 minims of strychnia solution (B.P.) with the same quantity of dilute phosphoric acid well diluted twice a day. On the second day of taking it, towards the evening, I felt a tightness in the ‘facial muscles’ and a peculiar metallic taste in the mouth. There was great uneasiness and restlessness, and I felt a desire to walk about and do something rather than sit still and read. I lay on the bed and the calf muscles began to stiffen and jerk. My toes drew up under my feet, and as I moved or turned my head flashes of light kept darting across my eyes. I then knew something serious was developing, so I crawled off the bed and scrambled to a case in my room and got out no questions were asked as to where or for what purpose the (fortunately) the bromide of potassium and the chloral. I had no confidence or courage to weigh them, so I guessed the quantity - about 30 gr. bromide of potassium and 10 gr. chloral - put them in a tumbler with some water, and drank it off. My whole body was in a cold sweat, with anginous attacks in the precordial region, and a feeling of ‘going off’. I did not call for medical aid, as I thought the symptoms declining. I felt better, but my lower limbs were as cold as ice and the calf muscles kept tense and jerking. There was no opisthotonos, only a slight stiffness at the back of the neck. Half an hour later, as I could judge, I took the same quantity of bromide of potassium and chloral, and a little time after I lost consciousness and fell into a ‘profound sleep’, awaking in the morning with no unpleasant symptoms, no headache, &c., but a desire ‘to be on the move’ and a slight feeling of stiffness in the jaw. These worked off during the day. The recollection of that night is so indelibly fixed on my memory that I shall never forget it. Although not so bad as your other correspondent it is ‘added testimony’ to his. Trusting this may be of use.
I am, Sirs, yours faithfully,
Leonard Sandall,
Railton-road, Herne-hill, S.E., March, 1896. Student in Medicine.



Balsam Post (2023) The Postal Microscopical Society: the first 150 years, pages 5-16

The Country-Side (1907) Note on the Postal Microscopical Society, page 361

England census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1992) Minutes of the November 18, 1892 Ordinary Meeting, page 248

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1994) Members, “Nov. 18, 1892, Sandall, Leonard, 80 Landcroft road, East Dulwich SE

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1997) Members, “Nov. 18, 1892, Sandall, Leonard, 80 Landcroft road, East Dulwich SE

The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1999) Members, Sandall was not listed

The Microscope (1959) Leonard Quartus Sandall, Vol. 12, pages 128-129

Quelch, Sue (2008) Leonard Sandall, Fact sheet 65, The RH7 History Group, accessed through https://www.rh7.org/facts.htm

Sandall, Leonard (1896) An overdose of strychnine, The Lancet, page 887

Sandall, Leonard (1914) A microscopical evening, English Mechanic and World of Science, pages 75-76