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A Brief history of Microscopy


c2000 BC

The Chinese use water microscopes made of a lens and a water filled tube to better visualize smaller objects.


Hans Jansen and his son Zacharias Jansen invent the compound microscope. A tube with multiple lenses inserted into it.


Galileo Galilei develops a compound microscope with a convex and concave lens. Calling it the occhiolino - the little eye.


The term ‘microscope’ is coined by Giovanni Faber of Bamberg, an analogy with the word ‘telescope’


Robert Hooke publishes Micrographia and coins the word 'cell’ after his examination of cork bark.


Anton van Leeuwenhoek spends considerable time perfecting the manufacture of the finest lenses which he uses in his famous single lens microscope. these lenses had far superior magnification and resolution compared to other microscopes and lenses at the time.


Johan Joosten van Musschenbroek builds a high power microscope with adjustable fine focus and a crude condenser. The 1700s were not a great era for lens improvements but mechanical developments came on in leaps and bounds.


Microscopes began to have interchangeable accessories like this Italian microscope by Petrus Patronus that featured an array of interchangeable objectives.


John Cuff designs a sophisticated user-friendly microscope with an efficient focusing mechanism. A design that would prove to be the basis of many subsequent microscope designs.


The Grand Universal microscope, one of the finest achievements of the British craftsman Benjamin Martin. This microscope stood 2 feet tall and featured an elegant rack and pinion stage gear mechanism. it is considered to be one of the finest microscopes of its period.


Ernst Abbe discovers the Abbe sine condition for manipulating the axis of optical systems to improving sharpness of images. This breakthrough in microscope design was exploited by microscope manufacturers Zeiss and Leitz resulting in a microscope boom


Olympus manufacture their first microscope - the Asahi.


The Olympus DF Biological Microscope becomes the first microscope to feature an attached light source rather than a mirror that reflects light on the specimen.


The popular CH series of Olympus microscopes appear in universities and colleges around the world. Chances are your college still uses these lab teaching scopes (or the slightly newer CH2 version).


Introduction of a unique Y-shaped design for the microscope body for enhancing optics.

2004 and beyond
Confocal and virtual microscopy are now common place.

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