The microscope has changed dramatically over time, and I'll try to give you a bit of a timeline to show you just how much:
- The microscope was first invented in 1590 by Zaccharias Janssen and his son Hans, who were spectacle makers. They were experimenting by putting several spectacle lenses inside a tube, and noticed that objects appeared massively enlarged.
- In 1609, Galileo learned about this discovery, and set to work on creating a better microscope. He used several lenses, and managed to create a focusing device.
- In the middle of the 19th century, Charles Spencer created microscopes that were of much higher quality than ever seen before. These instruments provided magnifications of 1250 diameters in natural light, and up to 5000 diameters in blue light.
- In the 1930's, Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska invented the electron microscope, which made it possible to view the tiniest of objects, including those as small as the diameter of an atom. The electron microscope can magnify objects up to 1 million times!
So there you have it. The microscope travelled from humble beginnings in a spectacle shop, to an invention that saw Knoll and Ruska awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Pretty impressive!
Here's an awesome video showing an electron microscope looking at a butterfly: