Like a lot of discoveries, the origin of
the microscope is not entirely clear whom it should be attributed to. There are three people who have been said to
be the inventor of the first microscope.
On one hand there is Hans Lippershey, on
the other hand it was the family Janssen. Lippershey is most well-known because
he was the first to file a patent for the microscope. On the other hand the
family Jansen have a background in making spectacles, which makes them logical inventors
of the microscope.
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Whoever was the original inventor of the
microscope, it changed a lot for mankind. Up to the discovery of the microscope,
people couldn’t see things smaller than a grain of salt or sand. But with the
discovery of the microscope, a whole new world opened up. Suddenly it was
discovered that there are living organisms in our water and even on our skin!
The impact on health care has been significant as micro-organisms could finally
be seen and identified.
The Evolution of
Although it is said that the first
microscope was invented in the 1590s, scientists from various countries had in
the earlier years found ways to magnify images. The magnification process may
have been different and the quality of the images not as clear, but the work of
these scientists served as a foundation that led to the evolution of
The invention of spectacles is linked to
two Italians, Salvano d’Aramento Degli Amati and Alessandro Della Spina.
Alessandro was open about his invention and the process, while Salvano kept his
invention a secret. Salvano died in 1284, about 33 years before Alessandro’s
death. Unfortunately, the reasons behind the absence of documentation of
Salvano’s work remains unknown.
Although the information on this microscope
is scanty, it is linked to ancient Chinese scientists. They used a tube with a
lens on one end. In a bid to produce images with varying clarity, the water
poured into the tube were of different levels. This microscope was invented
about 4000 years ago. However, the clarity of the object viewed through the
lens was quite impressive, considering the standards then.
The compound microscope has a rich history
with several scientists linked to its invention and advancements in the later
years. Although the Jansen’s invented it, other scientists in the following
years made improvements on the magnification.
The first compound microscope used two
lenses. One lens (objective lens) was close to the object. Its purpose was to
produce the image. The second lens, which was referred to as the eyepiece,
magnified the image picked up by the objective lens.
In 1595, the Janssen’s further improved the
compound microscope by adding a third lens and using three sliding tubes. Each
of these tubes was linked to lenses with different magnifying abilities. This
microscope is presently in the Middleburg Museum. This microscope magnified
images up to nine times the original size of the object.
When he was a youth, Robert Hooke was
fascinated with objects and the mechanical make-up of the microscope. He
observed several organisms, including lice, plants, and fleas. He was also
curious about snowflakes. Although the magnifying power of the compound
microscope was impressive, the images were blurry. Galileo Galilei and Robert
Hooke improved on the work started by the Jansen’s in 1609 and 1665
In the 1670s, the microscope had a single
lens that could magnify up to 270 times the size of the object. This leap in
the magnification power is credited to Antoine van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch scientist.
His effort is largely responsible for the identification of the bacteria that
caused tuberculosis. This was a breakthrough for many physicians who were
trying to understand the causes of some of the ailments. Leeuwenhoek studied
the red blood cells, yeast, protozoa, bacteria, as well as human and dog sperm.
Although the compound microscope was highly
effective, some scientists wondered how they could make improvements on the
already highly functional lens. In 1933, Ernst Ruska and his advisor Dr Max
Knoll, an electrical engineer, invented the electron microscope. Ernst studied
electronics in college, and this background helped him design a lens from the
magnetic field with the use of electric current. No microscope, at the time,
exceeded the magnifying limits introduced in the electron microscope.