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Radio Shows | Invention of the Microscope | mp3wmawav

Today, we'll explore the invention of the microscope. In biology class, it brought a whole new world into focus. The microscope gave us technology and a better quality of life.

So it's worth examining just how it came to be. Glass was invented about 22-hundred B-C. In the 1st century, Romans discovered if they made the glass thick in the middle and thin on the edges, objects viewed through it looked larger.

People started using lenses more toward the end of the 13th century when eye glasses were made. Magnifying glasses, the earliest of microscopes, came shortly thereafter.

It wasn't until 1590 when the forerunner to the modern microscope was invented. Two Dutch spectacle makers, Zaccharias Janssen and his son Hans found that the proper combination of lenses in a tube, made objects appear greatly enlarged. Their invention was the first compound microscope: which uses two or more lenses and is still in use today.

Galileo, the father of modern physics and astronomy, heard of these early studies. Through his own experiments, he harnessed the power of glass. In doing so, he designed a superior microscope that included a focusing knob.

Then, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microbiology, developed techniques to grind and polish glass. He made small lenses with great curvatures. With his lenses, his microscopes were able to magnify more than 200 times. He saw things never seen before: bacteria, yeast, blood cells and tiny animals swimming in a water drop.

Microscopes are now are so powerful, it's the equivalent of being able to see a penny on your football stadium seat from outer space. Microscopes continue to be a researcher's enduring partner bringing into focus tiny worlds we endeavor to understand.

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The Invisible World: Early modern philosophy and the invention of the microscope by Catherine Wilson. 280 pp. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-691-03418-4 is a wonderful, original, well-documented, and imaginative account of the influence of an instrument we take so much for granted today.

A very nice and brief history of the microscope.
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A summary of the contributions of Antony van Leeuwenhoek to the development of the microscope and his discoveries using his devices.
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A Microscopy Primer by Frithjof A. S. Sterrenburg is Hosted by Micscape, the monthly magazine of Microscopy-UK. This website not only talks about the history of the microscope but also has some illustrations of old microscopes and sections that talk about how they work.
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The history of the microscope is very nicely compiled and presented here.

The American Physical Society published a short history of the microscopes.
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