Congratulations to Brian Ford- 2020 Ernst Abbe Award Recipient

On Tuesday, November 17, the New York Microscopical Society will present the 2020 Ernst Abbe Award to Brian J. Ford. Throughout the years, Ford has been an active author and lecturer in a wide-variety of scientific disciplines, including light microscopy and biology. Characterized by his wit, humor, and insight, he has been a staple at the Inter/Micro annual microscopical conference, and a friend to Microtrace throughout the years. At the award presentation, Microtrace senior research microscopist Chris Palenik will offer a talk entitled, “Oblique illuminations” (abstract below), in honor of Ford’s contributions to the field of microscopy.

The Ernst Abbe Award of the New York Microscopical Society is bestowed upon an individual for outstanding achievement in microscopy or for some outstanding contribution to that science. Microtrace founder, Skip Palenik, was awarded the Ernst Abbe Award in 2012 for his “achievement innovating and teaching advanced microscopical Forensic analysis.”


A screenshot of the panelists from the celebratory event.


Oblique Illuminations

By Christopher S. Palenik, Microtrace LLC

Sometimes, simply taking a look at something from a new angle can shed light on topic that is unsettled, or – more interestingly – on a topic that has long been assumed to be settled.  Brian J. Ford, the honoree of this Abbe session, has made a career of developing new takes on old questions.  Through a combination of observation, experimentation, and the pursuit of forgotten and unknown resources discovered through persistent research, Brian’s hypotheses have led to a plethora of insight.  Sometimes humorous, sometimes controversial, but always thought provoking, Brian’s approach has been a respite on a wide range of topics.  With research ranging from single lens microscopes to single celled intelligence, with synthetic meat and human combustion in between, it is no wonder that microscopy is a theme woven through nearly all of them.

Drawing at will from every science, adapting nearly every analytical method as an accessory, and covering nearly every material and industry, microscopy has a nearly universal applicability.  Expanding on this theme of discovery perpetuated by new perspectives, this talk illustrates how microscopy provides a constant source of these “oblique illuminations.”  This may come in the form of an elegant solution to a seemingly insoluble problem or in the solution to a problem that provides a direct contribution to society.   For the microscopist, each of these oblique illuminations, success couched in the logic of a scientific discovery, provides a nearly addictive satisfaction.

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