What Is a Microscope & the Study of Microscopy

Science can thank the invention of the microscope for many of its findings and for the research that’s done today, but what is a microscope, and what is a microscope used for?

What Is a Microscope

Put simply, a microscope is a tool that enhances the image of small objects so they can be more easily seen. But it’s not the only device that does this. A magnifying lens also makes images or items appear larger. Magnifying glasses are considered simple microscopes because they have only one lens.

What makes a compound microscope different is that it uses more than one lens. By refracting light off an image through one lens and viewing it through another, refraction occurs, and you can see the item more clearly. Arranging the lenses in different configurations changes how you can bend the light and allows you to see objects differently.

The most basic  compound microscopes have two lenses, one that is the eyepiece you look through, and one that focuses on the subject matter, called the objective lens. This idea is what was used when the first microscope was invented.

Brief History of Microscopes

The first microscope is believed to have been made by the father and son team of Hans and Zacharias Janssen. While this was an important invention, and the development of the microscope ties directly to the telescope, the microscope wasn’t very useful initially.

Early telescopes were interesting and prompted more inventions but were not very reliable and didn’t magnify enough for major discoveries. Image blurring, which was called spherical aberration, and color separation or chromatic aberration were large problems until the 1830s, when Joseph Jackson Lister and William Tulley invented microscopes that corrected these issues. The result was an improved microscope that became widely used for scientific research, especially medical and biological studies.

How Are Microscopes Used

Microscopes are used in a wide variety of professions and hobbies today. At their most basic level, microscopes are used to magnify objects and make them easier to view or observe. This makes them especially useful in many professional areas, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Laboratories
  • Schools
  • Forensic science
  • Environmental science
  • Genetics
  • Material engineering
  • Engineering
  • Biophysics
  • Gemological
  • Soldering
  • Dentistry

Microscopes are not only good for professional use, but they’ve also become quite popular for use at home. The invention of microscope glasses, like your dentist uses, has greatly benefited many hobbyists. Some hobbies that make the most of microscopes include:

  • Antique collecting
  • Rock collecting and study
  • Stamps or philately
  • Coin collecting or numismatics
  • Jewelry-making
  • Miniatures
  • Needlework
  • Quilting
  • Metalsmithing
  • Leatherwork
  • Beer and winemaking

There are many, many more ways that microscopes have entered our lives to make them better in some way. And the uses for them grow every day.

What Is Microscopy

Microscopy is the field of study where you use microscopes. There are four main branches of microscopy that a professional can consider going into.

  • Optical microscopy: Optical microscopy uses visible light passed through a sample to magnify the image. This is how the very first microscopes worked, but today they’ve evolved and may use computers and cameras for digital results.
  • Electron microscopy: Optical microscopy has always faced a limit when it comes to the resolution of images. Electron microscopy uses an electron beam with a smaller wavelength than light to improve the resolution possibilities.
  • Scanning probe microscopy: Similar to electron microscopy, this field uses a sub-diffraction technique, but this one employs the physical contact of a solid probe tip to scan flat surfaces.
  • X-ray microscopy: This is a newer field of microscopy, using electron beams instead of light for a higher level of resolution. This field is similar to both electron microscopy and optical microscopy and is said to lie in between.

While it’s easy to see how microscopy can be used professionally, especially in the sciences, to make discoveries and learn more in-depth about certain subjects, microscopy can also be a hobby. Many people simply enjoy viewing life through a microscope. While they don’t do this professionally, they use their free time to study the world around them.

Microscopes have a wide price range, but lower entry-level prices make them accessible to everyone. Whether you’re interested in having a microscope to try for fun, you want one for your hobby, or it’s a part of your work, there are many affordable options to choose from. At New York Microscope, there’s a huge number of microscopes that you can explore and lots of useful information to get you started in microscopy.