Wilhelm Schubert, 1832 - 1907

by Brian Stevenson
last updated November, 2020

Wilhelm Schubert established his microscopy business in Dresden, Germany, during 1878, which consisted of a “Mikroskopisches Museum” (Microscopical Museum) and a slide-making operation. The Museum contained some 65-70 microscopes, each set up to view a different item. Vistors would be able to wander among the many microscopes, taking in a variety of subject matter. Schubert operated it through the end of the century, with extensive marketing to schools and visitors to Dresden.

Schubert advertised his microscope slides for sale over the same time period. They are generally well-made, with typeset labels of a no-nonsense style (Figure 1). His 1888 catalogue listed several hundred different types of prepared slides, ranging from insect, botanical, and aquatic to histological, pathological, and bacterial specimens (Figure 2).

Figure 1. A ca. 1890 microscope slide of a strew of polycystina shells, prepared by Wilhelm Schubert. His 1888 catalogue listed this mount at a price of 1 Mark (see Figure 2).


Figure 2. Cover and three interior pages of Wilhelm Schubert’s 1888 catalogue of microscopical specimens:

Figure 2. Cover and three interior pages of Wilhelm Schubert’s 1888 catalogue of microscopical specimens. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from https://digital.slub-dresden.de/werkansicht/dlf/86650/1/


Figure 3. Wilhelm Schubert. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from Pramann (2019).


Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Schubert was born on August 19, 1832 in Dittmannsdorf (near Freiberg). His father, Carl Gottfried Schubert, operated a wheel- and bicycle-making business.

Wilhelm initially attended the teacher’s college in Freiburg, graduating with a teaching certificate in 1853. He then received additional education to be a gymnastics teacher. He first taught language and gymnastics in Dresden, then taught gymnastics in Plauen at the Königlichen Gymnasium and the Königlichen Lehrerseminar from 1861 through 1869.

Schubert married Marie Emilie Teichmann on May 15, 1859 in Dresden. They had six children, only three of whom survived beyond childhood, although two of those died before their parents.

Due to a heart condition, Schubert had to retire from his teaching in 1869 and was awarded a small pension. The Schuberts moved to Dresden in 1870, and opened a shop that sold linens, gloves, and stationery.

As his health improved, Schubert began teaching classes in microscopy. Through the next few years, he acquired microscopes and other equipment. On July 11, 1878, he opened his Mikroscopisches Museum to the general public. Sixtyfive instruments showed vistors views of “microscopic animals, parts of plants and minerals”. Other attractions were occasionally presented, such as a live tarantula spider during October, 1878.  In 1880, admission cost 50 pfennigs for adults and 30 pfennigs for children, with discounts for membership cards that were good for 6 visits. In addition, Schubert presented lectures and instructions at the Museum, and made the space available for other lectures and professional meetings.

Schubert achieved a major public relations coup when Prince Friedrich August visited the Museum in November, 1878.

As Schubert grew older, he knew that he could not operate the Museum indefinitely, and so he offered to sell it to the City of Dresden. Attempts from 1891 onward proved fruitless, with the government repeatedly turning down his offers. Among other reasons, the City was reticent about taking on the expense of maintaining the 70 or so microscopes and associated exhibits. Ultimately, Schubert donated the Museum’s contents to the State Teacher’s Association, in 1906.

Wilhelm’s wife, Marie Emilie, died on January 12, 1907. Wilhelm passed away soon after, on March 22, 1907, at the age of 75.

Figure 4. Advertisement for Wilhelm Schubert’s microscope slides and Mikroskopisches Museum, from “Dresdener Nachrichten”, December 22, 1879.


Figure 5. 1882 advertisement, from “Pharmazeutische Zentralhalle für Deutschland”.


Figure 6. 1893 advertisement, from “Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte in der Lehre von den Pathogenen Mikroorganismen”.



I am especially grateful to Thomas Pramann for his excellent biography on Wilhelm Schubert, from which much of the above information was drawn.



Aus der Heimat (1902) Wilhelm Schubert, Mikroskopiker in Dresden, Vol. 14, page 156

Dresdner Nachrichten (1879) Advertisement from Wilhelm Schubert, December 22 issue, https://digital.slub-dresden.de/werkansicht/dlf/247037/6/#

Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte in der Lehre von den Pathogenen Mikroorganismen (1893) Advertisement from Wilhelm Schubert

Pharmazeutische Zentralhalle für Deutschland (1882) Advertisement from Wilhelm Schubert, Volume 23

Pramann, Thomas (2019) Vom Turnlehrer zum Mikroskopiker: Über den Lehrer Wilhelm Schubert, Karl May in Leipzig, June issue, https://www.freundeskreis-karl-may.com/index.php

Schubert, Wilhelm (1888) Verkaufskatalog des Mikroskopischen Museums zu Dresden über Präparate, Mikroskope und alle in das mikroskopische Fache einschlagenden Artikel, Dresden

Zeitschrift für Mathematischen und Naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht (1902) Vol. 32, pages 480-481

Zeitschrift für Mathematischen und Naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht (1902) Vol. 33, page 599