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Museum of Microscopy

The Molecular Expressions Museum of Microscopy features historical microscopes ranging from sixteenth century Dutch designs through the magnificent microscopes of eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe to the latest microprocessor-powered models available today.

Featured Microscope

The microscope images presented in this section were modeled in 3D Studio Max by graphics artists in our laboratory. The collection is arranged with the oldest microscopes listed first. We have attempted to be as accurate as possible in the rendition of these microscopes as well as the authenticity of the descriptions, but we may have inadvertently made some errors. Please email us with any verifiable discrepancies in fact.

Download our Museum of Microscopy screen saver for Windows.

Microscopes of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries - The first recorded microscope was built by Zacharias and Hans Janssen in the 1590's. This period saw a migration from simple hand lenses to the emergence of several popular microscope design motifs that originated in Western Europe. The Dutch, British, and Italian scientific instrument designers were particularly active during the early years of microscopy.

Microscopes of the Eighteenth Century - At the dawn of the eighteenth century, British instrument designers were introducing improved versions of the tripod microscope, based on a microscope invented by Edmund Culpeper. Later in the century, John Cuff introduced the first microscope designed to be user-friendly with an advanced focus mechanism. Mechanical innovations yielded sturdier instruments, but blurred images and optical aberration prevailed throughout most of the century.

Microscopes of the Nineteenth Century - The first part of the nineteenth century witnessed dramatic improvements in optics with the introduction of achromatic objectives by van Deijl, Amici, and Lister. Advanced glass formulations by Zeiss, Schott, and Abbe helped produce the first apochromat objectives. Photomicrography made its debut in mid-century, and Professor August Köhler introduced a method of illumination, which he developed to optimize image quality, allowing microscopists to take full advantage of the resolving power of Abbe's objectives.

Microscopes of the Twentieth Century - The twentieth century experienced a renaissance in microscope technology with the introduction of new contrast enhancing techniques such as phase contrast, Hoffman modulation contrast, differential interference contrast, and fluorescence microscopy. Film and camera technology achieved a high level of sophistication, but this progress has been largely eclipsed by rapid advances in digital imaging technology.

Bibliography - This section lists the reference materials used for background research during construction of the Museum of Microscopy. A majority of the 3-D models in the museum were redrawn from photographs illustrated in bibliography references. These books are excellent resources on the history of microscopy and are highly recommended for further reading.

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