1590s: The Microscope

Like many inventions, the exact date of the first microscope is disputed and confused, however credit is sometimes given to Zacharias Janssen and his father Hans Martenz for creating the first microscope as early as 1590, or possibly in 1595.  While people were experimenting with ways to make objects larger in earlier times, such as by using water to bend light and magnify objects or by using very simple lens, these probably do not meet the qualifications to what most would consider a microscope. 

Early microscopes came in a variety of forms ranging from single, powerful lens such as the type that Antony van Leeuwenhoek created and used, to simple compound microscopes such as those created and used by Zacharias Janssen, Galileo, and Robert Hooke.  Although these microscopes provided increased magnification, problems with the image quality – such as chromatic aberration – persisted due to the relative low quality of glass used combined with design flaws.

Today microscopes are available in an even greater variety of forms that include stereo microscopes that have two eyepieces and various types of electron microscopes that employ beams of electrons rather than light since the wavelength of electrons is up to 100,000 times shorter than that of light, allowing for much greater magnification.

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