Optic Lenses and Microscopes

Some of the earliest optic lenses have been around since 700 BC. Originally developed from polished crystal, civilizations have been modifying and perfecting the utilization of this technology ever since. Glass lenses first were developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans, but were not popularized until the Middle Ages.

Even today, eye glasses are utilized by millions of people to enhance their inherently poor eyesight. Today, the simple eyeglass has been even further reformed as contacts. This allows sight challenged people to perform a multitude of ordinary tasks, like reading a book or driving a car with ease, whereas their poor eyesight would have naturally hindered or prevented them from doing so.

This technology has been utilized by society in so many different ways. A lens can be used primitively to start a fire using the sun’s rays, read small text whether as a large magnifying glass or small compact contact, and even enhance other complex technologies such as the camera. The beauty of this technology is that it helps humans observe things that we couldn’t normally observe. Whether it’s something super large and far away through a telescope, or super small but close through a microscope.

For my paper, I would like to focus on a particular application of optic lens technology- the microscope. The first microscope was developed around 1600 by Hans and Zacharias Jansen in the Netherlands. Since then it has revolutionized the world through scientific exploration and discovery. Using the concept of the eyeglass, the Jansens observed that combining/stacking multiple lenses together allows them to amplify the magnification of their object being observed even further. A telescope in fact uses the same concept.  The microscope allows us to see things that are not visible by the human eye, which allows us to answer questions about how the universe works. It has been a crucial instrument in building the fundamentals in scientific fields such as chemistry and biology.

Like I said before, this is a remarkable technology that has derived from a very simple concept (bending rays of light) and has been perfected and refined over generations to open up a whole new realm of possibilities for making scientific discoveries. Most scientific discoveries are driven by human curiosity: seeking to explain the unexplainable. Most of these life mysteries stem from properties that we can see with the naked eye. This remarkable ability to see and observe the “invisible” is often overlooked, especially since this technology is so readily used but its importance should not be forgotten.

For my final research paper, I would like to analyze the impact and utilization of microscopes in today’s society. I will probably begin with research about its history and development from common/ simple optical lenses and discuss a few major scientific discoveries/ historical impacts that it has made. I am also interested in learning about the physics behind how microscopes particularly work and discuss how microscopes are still being improved and what new capabilities they now have as this technology has evolved/advanced. This can transition into the future of the microscope and what future discoveries it may help lead us to.


“History of Optics” – Wikipedia

The Invisible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of the Microscope Catherine Wilson Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995

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