Microscopes have been revolutionizing the science world since their early beginnings, and they continue to do so today. Scientists and microscopes go together like substrates and enzymes, and we know those two things go together because of microscopes. Let’s take a brief look at the magnitude of advances that have been made with the help of the mighty microscope.
Image sent by author
The Invention of Microscopes
The first microscope was created in 1590 by a man in Holland named Zaccharias Janssen and his father, Hans. They figured out that putting two small, convex lenses in a cylinder, the magnification of things at the other end could be increased by 10 times or more. 70 years later, an English philosopher Robert Hooke took the Janssen’s idea and ran wild, looking at all sorts of things in ways that they hadn’t been looked at before. Most notably, he looked at living organisms. Mr. Hooke leads us to the first of many microscopic major discoveries.
In his book Micrographia (an important work in the popularization of science), Robert Hooke presented the discoveries he made using microscopes and organisms. One of his most significant discoveries was the existence of cells within living organisms. In fact, he gave cells their name because they reminded him of the cells in a prison or a convent.
Afterward, a Dutch polymath by the name of Antony Van Leeuwenhoek designed yet another new microscope. This one was handheld, and could magnify objects up to 270 times. He discovered such things as bacteria (he called them animalcules), red blood cells, and more. Until these early scientists, no one knew that such things as cells and bacteria existed.
In 1902, yet another scientist decided that he wanted to see the tiny things of the world closer than ever before. Richard Adolf Zsigmondy was his name, and he invented the ultra-microscope for which he was awarded the Noble Price in Chemistry in 1925. Using the ultra-microscope, he studied nanoparticles (tiny particles between 1 and 100 nanometers in size). Nanoparticles now constitute an entire field of science, which has applications in fields such as bio-medicine, optics, and electronics.
Since the invention of the microscope, it has helped to dramatically improve various fields of medicine. In 1926, Hans Busch invented the electron microscope. Using an electron beam to illuminate and magnify a specimen, electron microscopes are capable of magnifications up to around 10,000,000x. While viruses had been studied before the electron microscope, it was not until its invention that scientists were able to study them in great detail.
These are just a few of the many ways in which the invention of the microscope has led to discoveries that revolutionized our understanding of the world. They are also used extensively in nanophysics, mineralogy, and biotechnology, among other disciplines, but to list their myriad accomplishments would be to fill a novel. A good rule of thumb is to note that when researchers are credited with advancements in any of the fields we’ve just described, they’ve done so with the help of a trusty (and probably expensive) microscope which can be purchased at places like microscope.com.
By Lizzie Weakley