Microscopes Up Close and Personal

June 26, 2017

Microscopes help us to explore and investigate the microscopic world around us. Dating back to the 13th century, microscopes are an important piece of equipment for any science lab. With that being said, they are also an expensive piece of equipment that should be cared for and maintained to extend the life in the classroom, lab or field. The more students know about them and respect them, the longer they will last. Our friends at Ken-A-Vision have graciously shared their Microscope Primer with us which will help students learn about the different types of microscopes, the parts of a microscope, microscope illumination, how to use a microscope, and how to care for a microscope.

Before heading back to your classroom in the fall, your microscopes may need a little "TLC." Ken-A-Vision also has a Microscope Maintenance Tutorial discussing the proper ways to maintain your microscopes. Ken-A-Vision suggests that compound microscopes should generally be serviced after about 200 hours of use.

Did you know?

‍The first compound microscope was discovered in the 1590's by two Dutch eyeglass makers. Zaccharias Janssen, and his father Hans, put several lenses in a tube and noticed the object near the end of the tube appeared to be greatly enlarged.
‍Robert Hooke published Micrographia in 1665. In this book, Hooke had hand-drawn illustrations of all sorts of things as seen through the microscope. His most significant observations were of fleas and cork. It was his observation of the cork that led to his discovery of plant cells because he was the first to use the term "cell".
‍Anton Van Leeuwenhoek discovered "protozoa" - the single-celled organisms that he called "animalcules". He also improved the microscope and laid the foundation for microbiology. He is often cited as the first microbiologist to study muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa and blood flow in capillaries.
  • The earliest simple microscopes were referred to as "flea glasses" because they were used for observing tiny insects.
  • Marcello Marpighi, known as the father of microscopic anatomy, found taste buds and red blood cells.
  • Robert Koch was a celebrated German physician and pioneering microbiologist. As the founder of modern bacteriology, he is known for his role in identifying the specific causative agents of tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax and for giving experimental support for the concept of infectious disease. In addition to his innovative studies on these diseases, Koch created and improved laboratory technologies and techniques in the field of microbiology, and made key discoveries in public health.
  • German engineer Carl Zeiss revolutionized the quality of lenses in the 19th century.
  • The smallest object observed through a light microscope was 500 nanometers long.
  • Microscopes have come a long way since the first "flea glasses." Students are able to observe small, microscopic organisms in great detail both in and out of the classroom thanks to all the advances of the microscopes available today. And just like the early inventors, a student's curiosity and love of science will help open the doors for new discoveries in the future.
Photo Credit: By Dnalor 01 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37788585 

Additional Resources

While checking out the Microscope Primer on the Ken-A-Vision website, be sure to take a closer look at the other great teacher resources that include both teacher and student handouts for Visual ArtsCreative WritingJournalismMathematicsBiology,ChemistryEarth & Space ScienceEcologyPhysics, andScientific Method. Don't forget to share these with your friends!

Stephanie Miller

With over 25 years experience, Stephanie serves as a senior copywriter, social media director, and senior editor for Science Scene. Stephanie is always on the lookout for new educational and STEM-related opportunities and technology.