When Protozoa Came to the Big Screen

Fierce and cannibalistic! The battle to the death will be primitive and unmerciful! This is not a sensational film coming to your local multiplex, but a way-back look back at 76-year old street science.

These days, we can watch protozoa battling on screen whenever we’re online, but in 1933 this was shocking, amazing stuff! The article from the February, 1933 issue of Modern Mechanix covers the jaw-dropping marvel that awaited visitors to that year’s World’s Fair Hall of Science…a protozoa death-match unfolding in a single drop of water. (Side note: deflation! Was 25¢, now 15¢!) The article in its entirety:

Screening Fierce Battle in Drop of Water

YOU might not believe it, but ferocious and cannibalistic battles are staged every moment of the day in the drops of water that make up the rivers, lakes and oceans of the world.

A few of these battles are to be brought to the screen for the amusement and amazement of visitors to the Hall of Science at the 1933 World’s Fair. What will make this feat possible is a special projector which throws on the screen in a greatly magnified scale what is seen at the eyepiece of a powerful microscope.

Drops of water containing various species of unfriendly protozoa will be joined on the slide under the microscope connected with the projector. The battle to the death will be primitive and unmerciful, for protozoa are hungry and they ask no quarter and give no quarter. The artist’s drawing above shows how the projector and screen will be rigged up for the show.

And looking closer, the devil really is in the details! What are these creatures doing battle? Are there any microbiologists out there who can identify these “unfriendly protozoa?

Detail: Two unfriendly, unidentified protozoans

Not having any microbiology reference works available, our “research department” turned to a freely available tool, the Tin Eye reverse image search engine, which diligently checked 1.12 billion images but failed to find anything quite like it across the wild, wide expanse of the Internet.