Time Line

14th century – The art of grinding lenses is developed in Italy and spectacles are made to improve eyesight.


1590 – Dutch lens grinders Hans and Zacharias Janssen make the first microscope by placing two lenses in a tube.


1667 – Robert Hooke studies various object with his microscope and publishes his results in Micrographia. Among his work were a description of cork and its ability to float in water.


1675 – Anton van Leeuwenhoek uses a simple microscope with only one lens to look at blood, insects and many other objects. He was first to describe cells and bacteria, seen through his very small microscopes with, for his time, extremely good lenses.


18th century – Several technical innovations make microscopes better and easier to handle, which leads to microscopy becoming more and more popular among scientists. An important discovery is that lenses combining two types of glass could reduce the chromatic effect, with its disturbing halos resulting from differences in refraction of light.


1830 – Joseph Jackson Lister reduces the problem with spherical aberration by showing that several weak lenses used together at certain distances gave good magnification without blurring the image.


1878 – Ernst Abbe formulates a mathematical theory correlating resolution to the wavelength of light. Abbes formula make calculations of maximum resolution in microscopes possible.


1903 – Richard Zsigmondy develops the ultramicroscope and is able to study objects below the wavelength of light.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1925 »


1932 – Frits Zernike invents the phase-contrast microscope that allows the study of colorless and transparent biological materials.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1953 »


1938 – Ernst Ruska develops the electron microscope. The ability to use electrons in microscopy greatly improves the resolution and greatly expands the borders of exploration.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1986 »


1981 – Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer invent the scanning tunneling microscope that gives three-dimensional images of objects down to the atomic level.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1986 »




First published March 2002.

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