Everything You Need To Know About Scientific Microscopes

Everything You Need To Know About Scientific Microscopes

If you are getting into microscopy as a hobby or even a career, you may be interested to know more about this fascinating instrument. 

While learning how to use a microscope is one thing, understanding the importance of the instrument is another. 

Knowing more about scientific microscopes will help you understand the tool better and fully appreciate the machine.

If this is a topic you are interested in, this guide to scientific microscopes will cover everything you need to know about them.

We will explain who invented the microscope and discuss how the microscope changed science.

Furthermore, this guide will cover the different fields of science that use microscopes and review the different types of microscopes most often used in science.

Let’s get started. 

Invention of Microscope

Invention of Microscope

Zacharias Janssen, a Dutch eyeglass maker, invented the microscope in 1590.

Even though the first microscope had very low image quality and magnification, it was still a significant invention in the world of microscopy. 

The inventor was the son of a spectacle maker, Hans Janssen.

Historians believe that Hans helped his son invent the compound microscope since Zacharias Janssen was still a teenager in the 1590s.

Even though historians credit Janssen for the invention of the microscope, they also give some of the credit to Hans Lippershey, another Dutch eyeglass maker.

Lippershey also played a big role in the study and development of optics and lenses during that time. 

How Did the Microscope Change Science

How Did the Microscope Change Science

The microscope is an instrument that has revolutionized the world of science and what we understand about living cells today. 

First of all, this instrument allowed scientists to study the body more in-depth and understand diseases in a new way. 

Around 1660, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek developed a more complex microscope that could magnify objects up to 200x, compared to the 20x of the first microscope. 

With this machine, he studied a variety of specimens and eventually coined the phrase “cell” to describe what he saw.

Unknown to him, this word would eventually describe the building blocks of living organisms, animals, and plants. 

However, until the 19th century, most scientists and pathologists refused to use microscopes since the first models introduced several errors such as discoloration and image blurring. 

Around 1830, Joseph Jackson Lister and William Tulley invented a new model that resolved these issues.

This was when microscopes skyrocketed in use, and scientists, pathologists, and physicians alike started to use the instruments in science and medicine regularly. 

After this point in time, it was typical to find microscopes in scientific laboratories. Scientists used these instruments for research revolving around cells and cell theory. 

Because of the microscope, we now know that all living things are made up of cells.

We also know a lot more about diseases and how the body works because of this instrument. 

Lastly, microscopes played a major role in studying food and water during that time and allowed physicians to see whether residents were drinking and eating contaminated food and water.

Overall, scientific microscopes have played a major role in the development of medical science, forensic science, the study of the ecosystem, tissue analysis, atomic science, and genetics. 

Science Fields That Use Microscopes

Science Fields That Use Microscopes

Dozens of scientific fields around the world use scientific microscopes for researching different things. This section will cover the main fields of science that use microscopes. Let’s take a look. 

  • Medical: Microscopes are widely used in the medical field. With these instruments, scientists have discovered one of the biggest theories, the germ theory, and continue to discover new findings that save countless lives. Furthermore, scientists use these instruments to study microbes and bacteria and test new medicine to combat dangerous diseases. 
  • Chemistry: Many chemists and biochemists also use microscopes daily. They use these instruments to observe specimens at molecular levels or even below that. Chemists and biochemists will use microscopes to simply study how different things interact or to aid in the development of new products. You will typically find the following kinds of microscopes in chemistry labs: stereo, polarized, and electron microscopes
  • Forensics: Forensic scientists work with the police to provide important data from different physical evidence. The technicians will take various samples such as hair, skin, blood, and clothing and use a microscope to study them more in-depth to help law enforcement solve cases. The forensic scientists will use a few different techniques such as physical, chemical, genetic, and microbiological techniques to collect data. Most of these techniques require some sort of microscope. 
  • Zoology: Zoologists and wildlife biologists use microscopes to study animal samples and growing cultures. Microscopes are essential for scientists to research diseases, pathogens, and even the dietary habits of animals. Without these instruments, we would not have as much knowledge of animals as we do today.
  • Microbiology: Microscopes are pillars of the microbiology field, as the name implies. Microbiologists use these instruments to identify and study different microorganisms and bacteria. You can typically find microbiologists in the healthcare industry working in laboratories. Their main job is to collect tissue samples and cultures and use microscopes to identify different pathogens. Many microbiologists use basic compound microscopes, but others working with prions and viruses have to use more complex machines such as electron microscopes. 

Types of Microscopes Used in Science

Types of Microscopes Used in Science

There are many different types of microscopes that are used in science. Let’s look at the main kinds of scientific microscopes and what industries you can find them in.

Compound Microscope

Compound microscopes have two lenses and offer magnification of up to 1000 times. In these kinds of microscopes, a lightbulb illuminates the specimen from below.

You can find compound microscopes with either binocular or monocular eyepieces. 

Since the magnification is so high, scientists can use these instruments for objects and specimens that are too small to see with the naked eye.

Many of these objects typically have a certain level of transparency to them. 

Compound microscopes are one of the cheapest models you can buy. For this reason, you can usually find them in school classrooms.

Many research labs in a variety of fields, such as biology, will also use these machines.

Stereo Microscopes

Stereo microscopes, or dissecting microscopes as some would call them, offer magnification levels of up to 300.

You do not need to set up slides for these models, so there is more freedom to study things of different sizes. 

Scientists typically use these microscopes to look at specimens that are too large for compound microscopes. 

A downside of stereo microscopes is that they have a low magnification. However, they are still useful for certain things.

They can provide close-up 3D images of objects. With this feature, scientists can study a specimen’s surface texture.

They can also physically move the object while studying it, something you can’t do with a compound microscope. 

The most common scientific fields that use stereo microscopes is the biology and medical field.

The electronics industry also finds great use of stereo microscopes; those who develop things like circuit boards can use these machine. 

Scanning Electron Microscope

Scanning electron microscopes use electrons to form images of specimens instead of light.

The process includes dehydrating the specimen, coating them with a conducive material, and scanning them. 

Once scanned, these microscopes produce digital black and white images that are 3D.

You can find these machines in a few different fields, including medical, physical, and biological. 

Transmission Electron Microscope

This microscope is similar to the scanning electron microscope because it uses electrons to produce images. 

The main difference between a transmission and scanning electron microscope is that transmission machines produce 2D images of specimens.

For this reason, scientists use these models to study partially transparent objects.

A few different fields use this microscope, including the biological, metallurgy, physical, sciences, nanotechnology, and forensic analyses fields. 

Confocal Microscope 

Confocal microscopes use a laser light to scan dyed samples.

Scientists will prepare slides and insert them into the machine, much like you do with compound scopes, then illuminate the image using a dichromatic mirror.

However, instead of reflecting the image to the eyepiece lens, the machine sends the image to a digital screen.

The main benefit of these microscopes is that scientists can create 3D images and run multiple scans. You will typically find confocal microscopes in the medical and biology field. 


We hope that this guide has helped you learn more about scientific microscopes. 

Historians credit both Zacharias Janssen and Hans Lippershey for the invention of the microscope in the 16th century.

Both were Dutch eyeglass makers and played a vital role in developing the machine that is the microscope today.

Scientific microscopes have played a significant role in science. This instrument is how the cell theory came to be, a theory that revolutionized the field and furthered our understanding of all living things.

Furthermore, microscopes have helped further our understanding of genetics, atomic science, medical science, forensic science, and the ecosystem. 

Many different fields use scientific microscopes, including medical, chemistry, forensics, zoology, and microbiology. 

Finally, scientists use five main types of microscopes today, including compound, stereo, confocal, scanning electron, and transmission electron microscope.