History of the microscope

Microscope History Timeline

History of optical light microscopes



2nd Century BC - Claudius Ptolemy described a stick appearing to bend in a pool of water, and accurately recorded the angles to within half a degree.


1st Century - Romans were experimenting with glass and found objects appeared larger when viewed through this new material.

12th Century - Salvino D'Armate from Italy made the first eye glass, providing the wearer with an element of magnification to one eye.

1590 - Two Dutch spectacle makers, Zacharias Jansen and his father Hans started experimenting by mounting two lenses in a tube, the first compound microscope.

1609 - Galileo Galilei develops a compound microscope with a convex and a concave lens.

1665 - Robert Hooke's book called Micrographia officially documented a wide range of observations through the microscope.

1674 - Anton van Leeuwenhoek used his knowledge of grinding lenses to achieve greater magnification which he utilised to make a microscope, enabling detailed observations to be made of bacteria.

1826 - Joseph Jackson Lister created an achromatic lens to eradicating the chromatic effect caused by different wavelengths of light.

Chromatic Aberration

1860s - Ernst Abbe discovers the Abbe sine condition (a condition that must be fulfilled by a lens or other optical system in order for it to produce sharp images), a breakthrough in microscope design, which was until then largely based on trial and error.

1931 - Ernst Ruska starts to build the first electron microscope.

History of the microscope