Who Invented the Microscope?

A microscope is a helpful tool that allows users to look at magnified objects at a cellular or even molecular level.

There are a few different kinds of microscopes, but the invention of the compound microscope is what started it all. 

The invention of microscopes paved the way for future scientists to learn more about how the body works and discover life-saving theories such as the germ theory of disease. 

While this instrument has played a vital role in science, there is some controversy over how this helpful instrument came to be and who invented the microscope. 

This article will cover who first invented the microscope and explain why two names always come up when it comes to that topic. 

We will also discuss the motivation behind the invention of the microscope and what it first looked like.

Finally, this article will cover how long it took for the tool to be used in scientific applications. 

Let’s get started. 

Person Inventing Microscope

Person Inventing Microscope

The microscope is a principal instrument in science, and credit is due to the inventor of this helpful tool. So who invented the microscope?

When it comes to who invented the first microscope, there are typically two names that come up.

Due to conflicting evidence, there is no concrete answer on who exactly invented the microscope. 

This section will look at the two men that historians believe to have had a big role in inventing the microscope: Zacharias Janssen and Hans Lippershey.

Hans and Zacharias Janssen 

Most historians credit Zacharias Janssen, a spectacle maker, as the inventor of the first compound microscope in 1590.

However, since he was only a teen at the time, historians also believe that his father, Hans Janssen, played a big role in the invention. 

Hans Janssen was also a spectacle maker at the time, running a business in Middleburg, Holland.

During that period, many people were familiar with optics and lenses and used them daily.

For this reason, spectacle makers spent a lot of time and devotion on optics research, leading to the invention of the microscope.

Hans Lippershey

Hans Lippershey was a spectacle maker and was from the United Netherlands.

While many historians credit him with inventing the telescope, others believe he also had a hand in inventing the first compound microscope. 

At around the same time as Hans and Zacharias Janssen, Hans Lippershey also invented a device similar to theirs, which resembled the compound microscope. 

While a man named William Boreel claimed that Lippershey stole the Janssen’s ideas, historians do not necessarily believe this account since Boreel may have been biased.

There is also no evidence that Lippershey stole ideas. 

Motivation Behind the Invention of the Microscope

Invention Of The Microscope

Now that we know who invented the microscope let’s dive into the motivation behind the invention.

Before microscopes, there was no easy way for people to study objects close-up other than using a simple magnifying glass.

However, a whole new world of possibilities emerged with the invention of the microscope. 

Humans are curious creatures by nature. Presumably, one of the main motivations for the invention of the microscope was curiosity, a longing to understand how things work. 

The first compound microscope could magnify objects up to ten times.

While this number is quite low compared to modern microscopes, scientists could start a lot of new research with this helpful tool. 

While it took a while for more competent microscopes to emerge in mainstream research, researchers in the 17th century used microscopes to study things like insects and even bacteria. 

While we cannot ask Zacharias Janssen or Hans Lippershey why they invented this optical instrument, we can assume that the tool came to be to study the world more in-depth.

One of the most important things that microscopes allowed scientists to do is learn more about diseases and how the body works.

The vital information they learned through the use of microscopes would eventually save countless lives. 

What Did the First Microscope Look Like?

What Did the First Microscope Look Like?

The first compound microscope that Janssen invented in the 1590s looked a lot different than modern microscopes today.

Instead of a complex machine that is typically quite heavy to carry, the first microscope was simply a handheld cylinder tube. 

The instrument contained three draw tubes (a tube within another tube) and separate lenses inserted into each end of the microscopes flanking tubes.

Much like regular microscopes today, this tool had an eyepiece lens and an objective lens. 

The eyepiece lens on Janssen’s first microscope was bi-convex; these lenses were quite common for the time.

However, the objective lens was a more complex piece since it was a plano-convex lens. These lenses were uncommon in the late 16th century.

As mentioned above, this instrument was a handheld device since it was simply a single tube.

To focus this tool, you would have to slide the drawtube until it produced a clear picture; you could slide it in or out to do so. 

If you slid the drawtube fully out, the device would magnify the object by ten times. On the other hand, if the microscope was not fully extended, it produced a magnification level of three. 

While there are no original models of the first microscope around today, it is obvious by the description that the first microscope looked drastically different from the modern compound microscopes we use today. 

How Long Did It Take for Scientific Application

How Long Did It Take for Scientific Application

The first microscope that Zacharias Janssen invented was impressive for its time. However, the tool had quite a few limitations. First of all, the image quality was very low.

Even though the tool could magnify objects up to ten times, the image that the tool produced was blurry and obscure. 

For this reason, it took some time for scientists to start using microscopes regularly for scientific application.

Developers needed some time to master the design and produce a better product that could handle higher resolutions

It took around 100 years for the microscope to become widespread in use. It wasn’t until the late 1600s that a more competent microscope appeared in mainstream science. 

The newer microscopes that appeared during this time had much higher resolutions and magnification levels.

For instance, some microscopes could magnify objects and specimens up to 270 times. 

When these new microscopes started to appear, scientists around the world started to use the instruments for scientific application. 

In 1667, a man named Robert Hooke, a natural scientist used a microscope to study various small insects, plants, and other specimens.

With the help of a strong microscope, he published a book called “Micrographia,” which included dozens of hand-drawn pictures of organisms he observed. 

The book was one of the first prominent movements in science due to microscopy, with many more discoveries to come throughout the years.


When asking who invented the microscope, historians often attribute the invention to Zacharias Janssen and Hans Lippershey. 

While there is no concrete evidence regarding who first invented the compound microscope, both men are believed to have played crucial roles in the development of the instrument. 

Before the invention of the microscope, people could only use a magnifying glass to study specimens up close. However, these small tools were not enough to satisfy human curiosity. 

With the development of microscopes, scientists could learn more about diseases, plants, insects, and other things like how the body works. 

The first microscope looked a lot different than modern microscopes. The compound microscope designed by Zacharias Janssen was a hand-held tube-looking device.

Like modern instruments, the first compound microscope had an eyepiece lens and an objective lens. 

Since the first compound microscope had low resolution and often produced blurry images, it took about 100 years for people to use them for scientific application.