Timeline of Microscopy
Found in: Microscopy Basics


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.


This site uses cookies. By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.