Microscope History

Microscope Slides

Uses In Society


Teacher Materials


Microscope History

Purpose: What do you know about microscopes?  Have you ever used one? Do you understand how they change the appearance of an object?  Join us on a travel through the history of the microscope and explore how they have changed. On our journey we will learn about the first types of microscopes, how they were used, and observe and document differences between those as they developed. You will review the basic components of the light microscope as well. Then, you will learn about the electron microscope to understand how microscope technology began to evolve into the complex microscopes that exist today. For your assessment, you will be creating your own timeline of the history of microscope technology and including a description of the changes.


micro Picture 4 Picture 3 Picture 1 Picture 2

Task 1: The information documented from the first three activities will be saved in a document and emailed to your teacher.

  1. Choose picture 1 to watch a video about the compound microscope
  2. Answer the following questions as you watch the Compound Microscope video:
          1. How is the microscope like a telescope?
          2. How did the microscope help the scientists of the early 1600s?
  3. Click on picture 2 to watch a video about the simple microscope
  4. Answer the following questions as you watch the Simple Microscope video:
    1. How many different Simple Microscopes did Anton von Leeuwenhoek build?   
    2. Why do you think he built so many?
    3. How was the simple microscope used in polyp/hydra research?
  5. Select three of the pictures from the following website and record the following information:
    Inventor, Maker, Place, Date, Materials, and a special fact from reading. 

Task 2: You will use the following sites to examine the historical and modern features of light microscopes. First, your job is to determine and list, in a document, what pieces they have in common and what function those pieces serve. Second, you will determine and list, in the same document, the pieces they have that are named differently but have the same function. Include the function of those pieces, too.  Next, you use the third link to learn about the electron microscope and document features of the electron microscope that you notice are the same as features of the two light microscopes and document that information. This document , with the information from all three links, will be saved and emailed to the teacher.  

  1. Select Picture 3 to examine the various components of the Compound Microscope. Please use the tools under the Components panel to rotate the microscope as needed.
  2. Also using Picture 3, but selecting The Modern "Home" Microscope, examine the various components of the Modern microscope. Please use the tools in the Components panel to label the microscope as needed.
  3. So far, your research has focused on the history of microscopes that rely on light to help you see the images. Modern science has also led to the invention of the electron microscope, which works differently and is much more powerful. Please use Picture 4 to gain background knowledge about the electron microscope. You may also find the compound microscope link helpful in your research as well.

Assessment: Use the following website and the four time frame options within the site to create your own timeline of the history of the microscope, from the simplest to an electron microscope. You will select two microscopes from each time period, copy and paste the images, in chronological order, into your document.  Make sure to insert the date with each picture. After creating this 8 picture timeline, you need to write a summary of the history of the microscope. You will include information about how the microscopes have changed throughout each of the four time periods.  When you are finished, the document will be saved as a PDF and emailed to your teacher. http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/museum/index.html


Please contact us with any questions about our project, materials, or for permission to use any portion of the project.