Timeline of microscopy
This is a timeline of microscopy, describing important events in the history and development of the technology.
|Time period||Development summary|
|13th century||The development of lenses in eyeglasses probably leads to the wide spread use of simple microscopes (single lens magnifying glasses) with limited magnification.|
|14th century||Spectacles are first made in Italy.|
|16th century||Zaccharias and Hans Janssen develop what might be considered the first microscope.|
|17th century||Before the century, almost no one suspected there was life too small to see with the naked eye, with fleas thought to be the smallest possible form of life. Johannes Kepler is generally considered by neuroscentists as the first to recognize that images are projected, inverted and reversed by the eye's lens onto the retina. By the mid 17th century Robert Hooke and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek take the microscope to new levels of development.|
|18th century||Looking through lenses becomes very popular, with many having a microscope when able to afford.|
|19th century||Achromatic microscopes are invented in the first half of the century. By the late 1800s, effective illumination sources develop, opening the way for the modern era of microscopy.|
|20th century||Early in the century, a significant alternative to traditional light microscopes is developed using electrons rather than light to generate an image. The first electron microscope is invented by Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska, blasting past the optical limitations of the light. By the late 1930s, electron microscopes with theoretical resolutions of 10 nm are designed and produced. The second major development for microscopes in the 20th century is the evolution of the mass market. The first commercial transmission electron microscopes are marketed in the 1950s. The 1960s through the 1990s produce many innovative instruments and trends on electron microscopy. In the 1970s, sufficient information on ultrastructural pathology becomes accumulated to allow the use of the electron microscope as a diagnostic tool. In the 1980s, the first scanning probe microscopes are developed and are closely followed by the invention of the atomic force microscope.|
|21st century||Dino-Lite Digital microscopes, a series of handheld digital devices, become one of the more original innovations in the new century.|
|~700 BC||Technological development||Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians start polishing quartz crystals as an attempt to replicate optical habilities of water. The Nimrud lens is on of the most famous examples.||Egypt, Irak|
|167 BC||Technological development||Simple microscopes made of a lens and a water-filled tube to visualize the unseen are developed in China.||China|
|100 AD||Technological development||Glass is invented and the Romans looking through the glass and test it, discovering that if helding one of these “lenses” over an object, the object would look larger.|
|~1000 AD||Technological development||Chinese elderly monks use the reading stones, which are considered the first vision aids.||China|
|~1021 AD||Literature (book)||Arab physicist Ibn al-Haytham writes his Book of Optics, the result of investigations based on experimental evidence. The book would eventually transform how light and vision are understood.||Middle East|
|1267||Scientific development||English philosopher Roger Bacon suggests the idea of the telescope and the microscope.||United Kingdom|
|1284||Technological development||Italian inventor Salvino D'Armati is credited with inventing the first wearable eye glasses.||Italy|
|14th century||Technological development||Spectacles are first made in Italy.||Italy|
|1590||Technological development||Dutch spectacle makers, Zaccharias Janssen and his father Hans develop telescopes and what is considered the first microscope, while experimenting with several lenses in a tube, including the first practical microscope with a magnification range of three times to nine times.||Netherlands|
|1609||Technological development||Italian scientist Galileo Galilei develops a compound microscope, with a convex and a concave lenses both fitting into a tube.||Italy|
|1619||Technological development||Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel presents in London the earliest recorded description of a compound microscope. The instrument ia about eighteen inches long, two inches in diameter, and supported on 3 brass dolphins.|
|1624||Technological development||A compound microscope is exhibited in Rome.||Italy|
|1625||Literature (book)||Italian scientist Federico Cesi publishes his Apiarium, perhaps the first scientific work to which the microscope is applied systematically.||Italy|
|1625||Scientific development||German papal doctor Giovanni Faber first coins the name microscope.||Germany|
|1665||Scientific development||English physicist Robert Hooke observes living cells and publishes Micrographia, in which he coins the term ‘cells’ when describing tissue. The book outlines Hooke's various studies using the microscope.|
|1675||Scientific development||Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek manages to use a microscope with one lens to observe insects and other specimen. Leeuwenhoek is the first to observe bacteria.|
|1830||Technological development||British physicist Joseph Jackson Lister develops a method to construct lens systems avoiding the effects of spherical aberration.||United Kingdom|
|1830||Technological development||Achromatic microscopes are invented.|
|1833||Scientific development||Scottish scientist Robert Brown becomes the first to describe his observation of the nucleus in plant cells.||United Kingdom|
|1839||Organization||The Royal Microscopical Society is founded in London.||United Kingdom|
|1841||Literature (journal)||The Journal of Microscopy is first published by the Royal Microscopical Society.||United Kingdom|
|1850s||Technological development||American scientist John Leonard Riddell at Tulane University, develops the first practical binocular microscope.|
|1863||Technological development||English microscopist Henry Clifton Sorby pioneers the use of metallurgical microscope for investigating the microstructure of a variety of materials.||United Kingdom|
|1860s||Scientific development||German physicist Ernst Abbe discovers the Abbe sine condition, a breakthrough in microscope design, which until then was largely based on trial and error.||Germany|
|1878||Scientific development||Ernst Abbe develops a mathematical theory linking resolution to light wavelength.||Germany|
|1879||Scientific development||Using the microscope, German biologist Walter Flemming discovers cell mitosis and chromosomes, a scientifc achievement recognized as one of the most importants of all time.|
|1880||Technological development||The first microtomes begin to be used enabling significantly thinner samples to be prepared in order to improve sample.|
|1893||Technological development||German professo August Köhler achieves an almost perfect image by designing a new method of illumination which uses a perfectly defocused image of the light source to illuminate the sample. The now called Kohler illumination turns an unparalleled illumination system. Using double diaphragms, the system provides triple benefits of a uniformly illuminated specimen, a bright image and minimal glare. ||Germany|
|1897||Scientific development||American physicist R.W. Wood describes the phenomenon of the field emission of electrons, the process of emitting electrons from an extremely small area of a cathodic surface in the presence of a strong electric field.||United States|
|1900||Technological development||The theoretic limit of resolution for visible light microscopes (2000 Å) is reached.|
|1903||Technological development||Austrian-Hungarian chemist Richard Zsigmondy develops the ultra-microscope, which allows the study of objects below the wavelenght of light.||Austria|
|1904||Technological development||Carl Zeiss introduces the first commercial UV microscope with resolution twice that of a visible light microscope.|
|1924||Scientific development||French physicist Louis de Broglie develops his theory showing that particles have wave properties and very short wavelenghts. This discovery would allow the development of the electron microscope.||France|
|1927||Scientific development||German physicist Hans Busch demonstrates that a suitably shaped magnetic field could be used as a lens to create electron microscopes.||Germany|
|1928||Scientific development||Irish physicist Edward Hutchinson Synge publishes his theory underlying the near-field scanning optical microscope.|
|1931||Technological development||German physicist Ernst Ruska along with Max Kroll at the Berlin Technische Hochschule develop the transmission electron microscope.||Germany|
|1932||Technological development||Dutch physicist Frits Zernike invents the phase-contrast microscope, which allows for the first time the study of transparent biological materials. By using interference rather than absorption of light, transparent samples, such as cells, can be imaged without having to use staining techniques.||Netherlands|
|1935||Technological development||The first scanning electron microscopes are introduced.|
|1936||Scientific development||German physicist Erwin Wilhelm Müller applies the principle of field emission of electrons to a negatively charged very fine tip of tungsten wire in the high vacuum of a cathode-ray tube. In this field-electron microscope, Müller obtains a pattern on the fluorescent screen that represents the array of atoms.|
|1936||Technological development||German physicist Erwin Wilhelm Müller invents the field emission microscope.||Germany|
|1936||Scientific development||Russian scientist Sergei Jakowlewitsch Sokolow proposes a device for producing magnified views of structure with 3-GHz sound waves, giving birth to the notion of acoustic microscopy.||Russia|
|1937||Technological development||German physicist Manfred Von Ardenne in Berlin produces the earliest scanning-transmission electron microscope.||Germany|
|1938||Technological development||Cecil Hall, James Hillier, and Albert Prebus at the University of Toronto, working under the direction of Eli Burton, produce the advanced Toronto Model electron microscope that would later become the basis for Radio Corporation of America's Model B, the first commercial electron microscope in North America.||Canada|
|1938||Technological development||Ernst Ruska at Siemens produces the firt commercial electron microscope in the world.||Germany|
|1938||Technological development||Canadian-American scientist and James Hillier designs and builds, with Albert Prebus, the first successful high-resolution electron microscope in North America.||Canada|
|1939||Technological development||Siemens launches the first commercial electron microscope.||Germany|
|1930||Scientific development||Dutch physicist Frits Zernike discovers he can view unstained cells using the phase angle of rays, and invents the phase contrast microscope.||Netherlands|
|1942||Technological development||Ernst Ruska improves on the transmission electron microscope (previously buil by Knoll and Ruska) by building the first scanning electron microscope (SEM) that transmits a beam of electrons across the specimen.|
|1942||Literature (book)||Canadian physicist Eli Franklin Burton and W.Kohl publish The Electron Microscope.|
|1942||Organization||The Microscopy Society of America is founded.||United States|
|1944||Technological development||Electron microscopes with theoretical resolutions reduced to 2 nm are introduced.|
|1949||Organization||The German Society for Electron Microscopy is founded.||Germany|
|1948||Organization||The Nordic Microscopy Society is founded in Stockholm.||Sweden|
|1949||Organization||The Swiss Society for Optics and Microscopy is formed.||Switzerland|
|1951||Technological development||German physicist Wilhelm Müller invents the field ion microscope and becomes the first to see atoms.||Germany|
|1951||Organization||The International Federation of Societies for Microscopy is founded.|
|1953||Recognition||Frits Zernike is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his demonstration of the phase contrast method, especially for his invention of the phase contrast microscope.|
|1955||Technological development||Polish physicist Georges Nomarski publishes the theoretical basis of Differential interference contrast microscopy. An optical microscopy technique used to enhance the contrast in unstained, transparent samples.||France|
|1956||Organization||The Italian Society of Microscopical Sciences is founded.||Italy|
|1957||Technological development||American cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky patents the principle of confocal imaging. Using a scanning point of light, confocal microscopy gives slightly higher resolution than conventional light microscopy and makes it easier to view ‘virtual slices’ through a thick specimen.|
|1957||Organization||The Belgian Comitee of Electron Microscopy is founded.||Belgium|
|1959||Scientific development||Dunn and Fry perform the first acoustic microscopy experiments, though not at very high frequencies.|
|1962||Scientific development||Osamu Shimomura, Frank Johnson and Yo Saiga discover green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria. GFP fluoresces bright green when exposed to blue light.|
|1965||Organization||The Israel Society for Microscopy is founded.||Israel|
|1965||Technological development||The first commercial scanning electron microscope becomes available.|
|1967||Technological development||Erwin Wilhelm Müller adds time-of-flight spectroscopy to the field ion microscope, and develops the atom probe field ion microscope.||United States|
|1970||Technological development||Korpel and Kessler begin to pursue a scanning laser detection system for acoustic microscopy.|
|1971||Organization||The Turkish Society for Electron Microscopy is founded.||Turkey|
|1972||Technological development||English engineer Godfrey Hounsfield and South African physicist Allan Cormack develop the computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanner (later known as CT scan). With the help of a computer, the device combines many X-ray images to generate cross-sectional views as well as three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures.|
|1974||Technological development||R. A. Lemons and C. F. Quate at the Microwave Laboratory of Stanford University develop the first scanning acoustic microscope.||United States|
|1975||Organization||The Microscopical Society of Ireland is established.||Ireland|
|1976||Organization||The Committee of European Societies of Electron Microscopy is founded.|
|1978||Technological development||German scientists Thomas and Christoph Cremer design a laser scanning process which scans an object using a focused laser beam and creates the over-all picture by electronic means similar to those used in scanning electron microscopes.|
|1981||Technological development||German physicist Gerd Binnig and Swiss physicist Heinrich Rohrer develop the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), used for imaging surfaces at the atomic level. The STM ‘sees’ by measuring interactions between atoms, rather than by using light or electrons. It can visualize individual atoms within materials.|
|1986||Recognition||The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded jointly to Ernst Ruska (for his work on the electron microscope), along with Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer (for the scanning tunnelling microscope).|
|1986||Technological development||An early digital microscope is made by Japanese company Hirox.||Japan|
|1986||Technological development||Gerd Binnig, Christoph Gerber and Calvin Quate introduce the atomic force microscope (AFM).|
|1988||Technological development||Alfred Cerezo, Terence Godfrey, and George D. W. Smith introduce the atom probe tomograph, making it able to resolve materials in 3-dimensions with near-atomic resolution.|
|1988||Technological development||Japanese scientist Kingo Itaya invents the electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope.|
|1991||Technological development||The Kelvin probe force microscope is invented.|
|1991||Scientific development||Japanese physicist Sumio Iijima discovers the presence of carbon nanotubes in soot produced by vaporization of carbon in an electric arc. The finding would spark interest in carbon nanostructures and their applications.||Japan|
|1992||Technological development||American molecular biologist Douglas Prasher reports the cloning of green fluorescent protein (GFP), opening the way to widespread use of GFP and its derivatives as labels for fluorescence microscopy (particularly confocal laser scanning fluorescence microscopy).||United States|
|1993–1996||Technological development||German physicist Stefan Hell pioneers a new optical microscope technology that allows the capture of images with a higher resolution than was previously thought possible. This results in a wide array of high-resolution optical methodologies, collectively termed super-resolution microscopy.|
|1995||Literature (journal)||Scientific journal Microscopy and Microanalysis is established.||United States|
|1998||Organization||The European Microscopy Society is founded.|
|2010||Technological development||Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles use cryogenic electron microscopy to see the atoms of a virus.|
|2013||Technological development||The Arriscope (surgical microscope) is presented to the public in a prototype version.||Germany|
|2014||Recognition||The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell and William Moerner “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”, allowing microscopes to now ‘see’ matter smaller than 0.2 micrometres.|
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