by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
The first showing of a microscopic motion picture took place in a small, make-shift basement laboratory at U. C. Berkeley in 1926 . All of the U. C. instructors who could had crowded themselves in to the cramped space.
They were there, wrote Arthur C. Pillsbury ten years later in his book, “Miracles of Plant and Animal Life,” “ to see the results and I was very anxious to get their reactions. After the short showing was over, Dr. Setchell turned to Dr. Holman and said, “What have we just seen, Doctor?”
Startled, Dr. Setchell talked about Brownic movements in protoplasm. The theory of pseudo-random motion came from botanist Robert Brown in 1827. Brown noted particles moved through the water. Unable to determine the mechanisms causing this motion it was assumed these were random and not purposeful.
What the UC instructors had seen on the screen was a cell dividing.
There was nothing random about it, as science eventually accepted. Pillsbury did not wait to hear anyone else's opinion. Knowing he needed the best equipment to continue his work he placed an order for what he needed. He then started out on a lecture tour to pay for it. The first unit cost $5,000, an enormous sum in 1926. To ensure these insights would remain available Pillsbury refused to patent his invention, instead publishing instructions for building your own camera.
Pillsbury said in his book, describing what he had seen in his study of Spyder Lily pollen as it germinated. “No matter what the obstruction, they grew over and under it or pushed it to one side.” Pillsbury continued, “ the nucleus, the germ of life, as it came out of the grain, traveled down the tube and entered the stigma. To ponder the reason, the why and wherefore, of nature's struggles to carry on, the difficulties to overcome, make one realize that the Guiding Hand must control all life, that one cannot well be a student of life and an atheist.”
The insights provided must have been unwelcome on college campuses where atheism and Marxism were gaining credibility for ideas covertly funded by the largest, and wealthiest, corporations on Earth.
These insights, with implications for all science, could not be contained. The explosion in discoveries gives mute testimony to what scientists refused to ignore.
In November, 1927, a fire in Pillsbury's studio destroyed his ability to fund another such project.