Fom the obituary in The Herald, Glasgow, 11 May 1996
Dr John Norrie McArthur, MRCS, LRCP, Hon FRMS, Hon Doctorate Open
University, Hon FRS; born Glasgow, November 9, 1901, died Cambridge,
April 26, 1996
DR JOHN McArthur, probably best-known in the scientific world as the
inventor of a revolutionary design for a miniature microscope, has died
at the age of 94.
Although he was a Glaswegian by birth, McArthur and his parents moved to
London when he was a year old, and he never returned to live in his
native land althouhg he visited Scotland frequently, including the
gathering of Clan McArthur some five yeas ago, at which a new chieftain
For this and other notable occassions, including his 90th birthday,
McArthur wore the kilt, which he did with great distinction. His lean
frame and rather aquiline features, with his flowing silver locks and
silver beard, were admirably complemented by the kilt, and he looked the
archetypal Scottish gentleman which, indeed, he was.
McArthur studied medicine at University College, London, and obtained his
MRCS and LRCP in 1933, having already met and married his first wife,
Kitty. He had intended to become a medical missionary, but for various
reasons this did not come about and he worked first as a medical officer
with a diamond mining company in Sierra Leone.
He soon moved, with his wife, to North Borneo as malaria researh officer
and ultimately became director of malaria research for North Borneo,
Sarawak and Brunei.
Between his arrival in North Borneo in 1938 and the Japanese invasion in
1943, McArthur did some of his most valuable research on the mosquito
vectors of malaria in that country and the means for their control by
"natural" methods such as clearing the undergrowth from streams which
provided the mosquitos with the shade they needed for their larval
development in the water.
McArthur always felt that this work had been overlooked, when the World
Health Organisation decided in the early post-war years to concentrate on
the use of the "new" insecticide DDT in its campaign against malaria.
The McArthur's son, Malcolm was born on the day that the Japanese Army
landed in Borneo, and before long McArthur was imprisoned by the Japanese
authorities. Ever since his days as a medical student , McArthur had been
working on his truly portable microscope, which he achieved by the then
novel idea of using prisms to "concertina" the light path in the
instrument so that, instead of the conventional instrument which stood
some 15 inches high, his version was only about 4x3x1 inches in size.
When captured by the Japanese, he had the only prototype model with him
and this, together with all his mosquito research records, was
confiscated by his captors. Amazingly both were recovered after his
release by Allied forces in 1945.
As I remember his telling me, McArthur mentioned to one of the officers
of the unit which freed him that he had lost his prototype microscope.
The officer replied that he had recently taken prisoner a Japanese
medical officer who had such a microscope with him. A hasty trip in a
jeep revealed that this was, indeed, the original McArthur microscope.
After returning to England in 1951, McArthur concentrated on the
development of his microscope. He became even more determined that
nothing less than perfection would do. Working initially in a converted
wooden chicken shed in the garden of his village home near Cambridge, and
with machinery made by a local garage, he finally achieved, if not
perfection, an instrument which was capable of performing all the
fuctions of a normal microscope.
It had the advantage of being able to be fitted directly on to the lens
of a television camera, and one instrument was used by the BBC to
transmit images of "moon dust" brought back by the first Apollo mission
to the moon.
In 1962, McArthur was sadened by the death of his first wife. However a
year later he remarried to Ruth, a friend of many years' standing. Ruth
supported him in his continuing efforts to improve the microscope,
although his insistence on perfection and lack of concern for the
commercial aspects of the venture must have made this difficult at times.
In the course of this work, John produced an inexpensive version of the
microscope with a plastic body, which was adopted by the Open University.
This model received awards from the Council of Industrial Design, and the
Design Council, and McArthur himself was rewarded with an honorary
doctorate from the Open University.
I became acquanted with McArthur only relatively late in his life, but I
well remember his great charm and kindliness, his modesty and his sense
of humour, and perhaps above all his gentleness. He was in no way
embittered by his wartime experiences in Borneo. He is survived by Ruth,
Malcolm, and by Anna and Ian, children of his second marriage - all of
whom, I am sure, will remember him with great joy and happiness.
After cremation, McArthur's ashes have been taken to Kinclaven, near
Perth, where his earthly remains will rest with those of his forebears in
the family grave.
Appreciation by Dr JOHN BAKER, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and
 [SOURCE] Submitter Malcolm McArthur