History Of The Microscope

Main

First Step

1000 AD

The first vision aid was invented (inventor unknown) called a reading stone. It was a glass sphere that magnified when laid on top of reading materials.

Eye Glasses

1280

The Italian, Salvino D'Armate is credited with inventing the first wearable eye glasses. Which was basically the first step of seeing things clearer.

The Dutch Duo Lenses

1590

Two Dutch eye glass makers, Zaccharias Janssen and son Hans Janssen experimented with multiple lenses placed in a tube. The Janssens observed that viewed objects in front of the tube appeared greatly enlarged, creating both the forerunner of the compound microscope and the telescope.

Pores or cells

1665

English physicist, Robert Hooke looked at a sliver of cork through a microscope lens and noticed some "pores" or "cells" in it. Basically the first person to be able to actually see cells.

The first bacteria found

1674

Anton van Leeuwenhoek built a simple microscope with only one lens to examine blood, yeast, insects etc. Leeuwenhoek was the first person to describe bacteria, and he invented new methods for grinding and polishing microscope lenses that allowed for curvatures providing magnifications of up to 270 diameters, the best available lenses at that time!

Clearing the Image

1830

Joseph Jackson Lister reduces the "chromatic effect" by showing that several weak lenses used together at certain distances gave good magnification without blurring the image. This was the prototype for the compound microscope.

Maximum Resolution

1873

Ernst Abbe, then research director of the Zeiss Optical Works, wrote a mathematical formula called the "Abbe Sine Condition". His formula provided calculations that allowed for the maximum resolution in microscopes possible.

Below the Wavelength

1903

Richard Zsigmondy developed the ultramicroscope that could study objects below the wavelength of light. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1925.

As small as an Atom

1931

Ernst Ruska co-invented the electron microscope for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. An electron microscope depends on electrons rather than light to view an object, electrons are speeded up in a vacuum until their wavelength is extremely short, only one hundred-thousandth that of white light. Electron microscopes make it possible to view objects as small as the diameter of an atom.

Studying the Colorless

1932

Frits Zernike invented the phase-contrast microscope that allowed for the study of colorless and transparent biological materials for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1953.

The Most Powerful

1981

Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer invented the scanning tunneling microscope that gives three-dimensional images of objects down to the atomic level. Binnig and Rohrer won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. The powerful scanning tunneling microscope is the strongest microscope to date.