Janssen’s Microscope

Manufacturing Edition,

Welcome to this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday, where we’re going to be taking an up-close look at an important invention that really magnified our lives. If you haven’t already guessed by the puns, this week we are going to be learning about the first microscope! Let’s take a closer look (that’s the last pun, we promise)…

The microscope has benefited every major field of science to date and has been doing so since the early 1590s, according to historians. Although the definitive origin of the optical microscope is a matter of debate, most scholars would agree that the credit can be given to Zacharias Janssen in the late sixteenth century. It was around this time that eyeglasses were becoming more and more utilised across the world, lending attention to optics and lenses. Janssen and his father, Hans, who is thought to have helped with the invention of the microscope, worked together as spectacle makers in Middleburg, Holland.

Unfortunately, no early models of the Janssen microscopes have survived, although there is a microscope on display in a museum in Middleburg, dated from 1595, which is attributed to the Janssen name. It’s thanks to Dutch diplomat William Boreel, a family friend of the Janssens, that we know anything about the 1595 predecessor. In a letter to the French king, he detailed the origins of the microscope, describing a device that rose vertically from a two-and-a-half-foot tripod that was made from Brass. He stated that the main tube was an inch or so in diameter, containing an ebony disk at its base, with a convex lens at one end and a concave lens at the other – the first double lensed optical device!

The Janssen microscope was capable of achieving a magnification range of between three and nine times the size of an object. This may seem almost primitive when compared to the microscopes of today, which are capable of magnification ranges between 1,000 and 2,000 times true size; however, the Janssen microscope’s double lens technology was a vital advancement from single lens magnification. The father and son team opened the door to the almost invisible, microscopic world that surrounds us and aided multiple key discoveries. Thank you, Janssens!

Have any questions? Chat to the Goodfellow team today and we’ll see how we can help you!

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