How Have Microscopes Changed Over Time?

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Since the 1st century when Romans experimented with magnifying small objects by looking at them through glass, the microscope has changed considerably with modern versions of the device capable of presenting three-dimensional images of objects at the sub-atomic level. The most notable advances in microscope technology occurred in the 19th century.

Vision Engineering Ltd., a global manufacturer of microscopes, offers a timeline of microscope technology, beginning with Romans testing pieces of glass that were thick in the middle and thin along the edges by examining small objects through them. The first actual microscopes, however, were magnifying glasses with one power, capable of offering a clear view of insects. In 1830, Joseph Jackson Lister created a microscope in which lenses were spaced apart enough to avoid distortion of the object in view. By the middle of the 19th century inventors created the first of what resembled modern microscopes. Several companies in various countries, including the United States, began manufacturing these optical instruments.

According to the Nobel Prize organization, Ernst Ruska developed the electron microscope in 1938. With this version of the device, users were able to enjoy significantly improved resolution. In 1981 Heinrich Rohrer invented the scanning tunneling microscope that offers atomic-level three dimensional images.

Today’s microscopes have, according to Vision Engineering Ltd., reached their design limit with little having changed since Rohrer’s invention. However, manufacturers continue to try to make the devices more user friendly, according to the company.