JUNE 2015
Dan Shechtman, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2011
Dan Shechtman, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2011, at the microscope.

Discover Hidden Worlds
From cells to bacteria to single molecules and atoms, microscopes help us explore worlds beyond the naked eye. Microscopes are invaluable tools in research and education. They are used in a wide range of scientific fields and many major discoveries in biology, medicine and materials research were made possible through advances in microscopy techniques. In 'Microscopes' you can learn more about different microscopes and what scientists study with them as well as try out some of the Nobel Prize awarded techniques by using the microscope simulators.
arrow Explore 'Microscopes'

Fritz Zernike.
Physics Laureate Fritz Zernike.
Thrilling Toy and Important Tool
Already in 1590, the first optical microscope - two lenses in a tube - was developed, although it is hard to identify the original inventors. Technical improvements during the following centuries made microscopy very popular among the scientists. In 1903, Richard Zsigmondy developed the ultra microscope that made it possible to study objects below the wavelength of light. He was awarded the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Another improvement was made by Fritz Zernike in the 1930s, when he invented a microscope where light phase content enhanced the image contrast. In 1953, he was awarded the Physics Prize for the phase-contrast microscope, allowing studies of colorless and transparent biological materials.
arrow Watch Professor Zernike receiving the telegram notifying him about the Nobel Prize

Two Radical Leaps
The 1986 Nobel Prize for Physics rewarded three scientists for two radical leaps in microscope technology that finally allowed us to witness life at the atomic level. In 1933, Ernst Ruska, one of the three Laureates, designed and built the first electron microscope. The ability to use electrons in microscopy greatly improved the resolution and greatly expanded the borders of exploration.
arrow Read more about Ernst Ruska's way to the Nobel Prize
Detail from the first electron microscope. Photo: J. Brew. CC BY-SA 3.0  via Wikimedia Commons. Source: Deutsches Museum.
Detail from the first electron microscope. Source: Deutsches Museum. Photo: J. Brew. CC BY-SA 3.0  via Wikimedia Commons.

Tunneling electrons.
"Luck Was on Our Side"
Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, the other two Laureates sharing the 1986 Physics Prize, succeeded in designing a scanning tunneling microscope that gave three-dimensional images of objects down to the atomic level. There were enormous experimental difficulties involved in building an instrument of the precision and stability required, and maybe also some luck.
arrow Heinrich Rohrer talks about the need of luck

"People Often Ask What Is the Use of It"
1982 Chemistry Laureate Aaron Klug was awarded for developing the crystallographic electron microscopy, an important tool for determining the chemical structure of complicated components in living organisms. In his speech at the Nobel Banquet, Aaron Klug emphasized the importance of basic science.
arrow Read Aaron Klug's speech at the Nobel Banquet
Chemistry Laureate Aaron Klug
Chemistry Laureate Aaron Klug.

The STED microscopy (circular inset image) provides approximately ten times sharper details of filament structures within a nerve cell compared to a conventional light microscope (outer image). © G. Donnert, S. W. Hell
STED microscopy image (inset) provides appr. ten times sharper details compared to a conventional light microscope (outer image).
© G. Donnert, S. W. Hell.

They Brought Optical Microscopy into the Nanodimension
For a long time optical microscopy was held back by a presumed limitation: that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. Helped by fluorescent molecules the most recent Chemistry Laureates, Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner, ingeniously circumvented this limitation.
arrow Watch a short explanation of the 2014 Chemistry Prize

Monthly Quiz
An Epoch-Making Discovery
At the end of the 19th century, a country doctor discovered the bacteria causing tuberculosis using a microscope. What was his name? Make a guess and click to submit your answer.
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