Timeline of Microscopy

The development and history of the optical microscope was one which stretched over a long period of time with many larger and smaller contributions. The following list highlights some of these milestones.

  • 1021 – Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) (965 -c.1039): describes the properties of magnifying glass in his Book of Optics.
  • 1100s – Translation of Alhazen’s Book of Optics into Latin and spreading of the knowledge into Europe
  • 1200s – Development of spectacles (Italy)
  • 1590 – Hans Jansen and his son Sacharias Jansen: Invention of the compound microscope
  • 1609 – Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): construction of a compound microscope with a convex and a concave lens.
  • 1619 – Cornelius Drebbel (1572-1633): presents a compound microscope made of two convex lenses.
  • 1625 – Giovanni Faber (1574-1629): coins the word microscope
  • 1665 – Robert Hooke (1635-1703): publishes Micrographia, a collection of biological micrographs and the first basic publication dedicated to microscopy.
  • 1673 – Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723): develops single-lense microscopes.
  • 1678 – Cherubin d’Orleans: develops a binocular microscope out of two monocular systems
  • 1690 – Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695): formulates the wave theory of light and constructs oculars made of two lenses and a diaphragm
  • c. 1700 – John Marshall (1633-1725): Develops a microscope base with an illumination system
  • 1712 – Christian Gottlieb Hertel: uses mirrors for illumination and constructs a micrometer eyepiece using horse hair for a grid
  • 1744 – John Cuff (1708-1772): used a condenser lens to increase light intensity
  • 1755 – Georg Adams (1704-1773): constructed microscopes with a revolving nose piece to change objectives.
  • 1814 – Joseph Fraunhofer (1787-1826): besides constructing microscopes, his research contributed to the establishment of the wave-theory of light.
  • 1830 – Joseph Jackson Lister (1786-1869): is able to correct both chomatic and spherical aberration
  • 1834 – William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877): develops polarization microscopy and makes photomicrographs
  • 1847 – Giovanni Battsta Amici (1786-1873): first person to use immersion objectives
  • 1863 – Henry Clifton Sorby: development of a metallurgical microscope to observe meteorites.
  • 1873 – Ernst Abbe (1840-1905): discovers the Abbe sine condition, the theory of microscopic imaging and resolution. This was a substantial discovery.
  • 1893 – August Köhler (1866-1948): Köhler illumination invented
  • 1935 – Frits Zernike (1888-1966): develops phase contrast microscopy, He recieves the Nobel Price in 1953.
  • 1955 – George Nomarski (1919-1997): develops differential interference contrast microscopy.

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