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Janssen's Microscope

The origin of the optical microscope is a matter of debate, but most scholars agree that the invention of the compound microscope can be credited to Zacharias Janssen in the late sixteenth century. At that time eyeglasses were beginning to enjoy widespread use and this focused a great deal of attention on optics and lenses.

The microscope illustrated above was built by Zacharias Janssen, probably with the help of his father Hans, in the year 1595. Janssen's microscope consists of three draw tubes with lenses inserted into the ends of the flanking tubes. The eyepiece lens was bi-convex and the objective lens was plano-convex, a very advanced compound design for this time period. Focusing of this hand-held microscope was achieved by sliding the draw tube in or out while observing the sample. The Janssen microscope was capable of magnifying images approximately three times when fully closed and up to ten times when extended to the maximum. No early models of Janssen microscopes have survived, but there is a candidate housed in the Middleburg Museum in Holland that some historians attribute to Janssen.

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