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How does a microscope work?

A:

Quick Answer

Microscopes work by gathering light and focusing it through a series of lenses to create an enlarged image. Optical microscopes use a light source to illuminate a specimen and utilize condenser and ocular lenses to provide magnification.

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The most basic microscopes utilize a single lens, essentially a magnifying glass, to produce a relatively high level of magnification. Optical microscopes are similar to refracting telescopes and operate using many of the same basic optical principles. While telescopes are designed to gather light from distant objects, microscopes make use of a smaller viewing area and an independent light source to illuminate and magnify a specimen. The objective lens of a microscope is much smaller than that of a telescope and is spherical in shape, which produces a much shorter focal length.

Electron microscopes operate in a manner similar to optical microscopes, but they make use of lens that are designed to focus electrons rather than optical light. These microscopes are very powerful and are able to produce a level of magnification that is many orders of magnitude higher than that of an optical microscope. Both optical and electron microscopes are able to make use of different lenses to provide various levels of magnification.

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  • Q:

    When were cells discovered?

    A:

    The cell was discovered in 1665 by Robert Hooke when he examined thin slices of a cork with a microscope. What he saw were not living cells but nonliving cell walls. Hooke reportedly used the word "cells" for what he saw, because the cork reminded him of monastery cells.

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  • Q:

    What is an onion cell lab?

    A:

    In a typical onion cell lab, students observe the structure of onion cells using a microscope. Students usually complete the lab using both low-power and high-power magnification.

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  • Q:

    What did Robert Brown contribute to cell theory?

    A:

    Robert Brown contributed to cell theory by showing the radical motion of molecules within a cell under the light of a microscope. The Brownian method was named after Brown's discovery of the way that the molecules moved.

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  • Q:

    True or false: can you see, smell and taste microorganisms?

    A:

    You cannot see a microorganism without using a microscope. You also cannot taste or smell microorganisms such as bacteria in contaminated food. However, you can smell the odor of bacteria metabolizing sweat. Toenail fungal infections also produce an odor.

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