Microscopes and the Scientific Revolution (2023)

One of the most important inventions of the scientific revolution, the microscope opened up a whole new microcosm. The first microscopes were invented in the Netherlands in the first half of the 17th century, but they soon became the invention of scientistsEuropaThey used the instrument to make startling new discoveries in the fields of botany, entomology and anatomy.

Microscopes and the Scientific Revolution (1)

first microscope

The first optical microscope appeared in the early 17th century, shortly after the invention of the telescope, which is generally thought to have been developed by the Flemish glassmaker Hans Lippershey (c. 1570 to c. 1619) invented. A year or two later, Galileo (1564-1642) built an advanced telescope with which he observed the sky in detail and published his results instar messengerstar messenger) in 1610. The microscope also originated in the Netherlands, and its invention is usually credited to Cornelius Drebel (1572-1635) or Hans Jansen. Like telescopes, microscopes use two lenses in a hollow tube. Drebel's model did not follow Galileo's telescope design (which had only one concave and one convex lens), but that of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), who used the Two convex lenses. Although the image is inverted in the latter arrangement, it is also sharper.

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Preparing samples for observation is an art in itself and can mean new scientific discoveries or nothing.

Manufacturers of professional microscopes soon appeared, and one of the highly respected manufacturers was John Marshall. Marshall designed a compound microscope with three lenses (eyepiece, field lens, and objective) and the ability to add additional light using candles under the base, which can be seen today at:scienceLondon Museum. A notable private builder was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (more on that below), who built over 500 microscopes, including ones with an impressive 270x magnification and using tiny Specimens of glass beads rather than larger glass lenses. Other tweaks were made to improve the instrument, such as the addition of a small mirror at the bottom that can be angled to direct more light onto the sample being examined. Instrument maker Edward Culpeper (1670-1737) made this mirror concave, increasing the amount of light available to the microscope. It's not enough to have a great instrument, but preparing specimens for viewing is an art in itself that can tell the difference between a new scientific discovery or nothing.

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Microscopes and the Scientific Revolution (2)

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Scientists quickly took advantage of the new device to study things that were previously invisible or invisible to the naked eye. Anatomists, entomologists and botanists are particularly interested in using this new invention to improve their understanding of the natural world. For example, in 1625 Francesco Stelluti studied the bodies of bees in detail and published his research asbee farm, the first study based on microscopic science. More discoveries and scientific writings followed, and the second half of the 17th century produced beautifully illustrated works showing interested readers exactly what could be seen through the latest microscopes. It is now clear that tiny insects can be as complex as large mammals. Observation through the microscope also raises complex questions, such as whether B. parasitic fleas themselves have fleas, which fleas may not have fleas, and so on.to infinity? Microscopes reveal new worlds, but where do they end up? The invention appears to raise more questions than current technology can answer.

Discoveries of early microscopists

There are several key figures in the early history of the microscope. Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694) was a respected physician. he was promoted to his professordrugHe studied at the Universities of Pisa and Bologna before becoming Doctor of Pope Innocent XII. (office 1691-1700). Malpighi was the first to use a microscope to conduct detailed anatomical studies and to publish his workin the lungsIn 1661, he revealed their true structure. Furthermore, Malpighi discovered and demonstrated that capillaries connect veins and arteriesWilliam Harvey discovers the circulatory systemin the human body. Malpighi also carried out many other in-depth studies, notably on the human brain, tongue, kidney and skin, as well as silkworm and chicken embryos (essentially laying the foundations of the science of embryology). Malpighi's impact on the study of human anatomyhuman anatomyBy Govard Bidloo (1649-1713), published 1685.

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Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) is best known for his work in many other fields of science, but he also developed a keen interest in microscopy and, together with his brother Constantine, made high quality instrument. Dutchman Huygens benefited from locally manufactured high-quality lenses.

Microscopes and the Scientific Revolution (3)

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), also from the Netherlands, made some of the most important contributions to the development of the field of microscopy. "His contributions included the discovery of the erythrocyte, the circulation of blood in capillaries, the existence of protozoa, and the nature of the male sperm" (Burns, 166). He also developed a measurement scale that can be used to compare the opinions of different samples. The more unusual sights seen by van Leeuwenhoek in his microscope, using individual glass beads at incredible magnification, were often captured in drawings by local draftsmen. The Dutchman's work became so famous that he was able to use his home in Delft as an open museum, where the public could visit the many microscopes he had set up and view prepared slides.

Swammerdam discovered that the caterpillar contained something that metamorphosed into a butterfly's wing.

Robert Hooke (1635-1703) published hisminiature1665, this is an important work in the field, popular mainly for its extremely detailed illustrations. Hooke was able to obtain a clear image through his dark mirror, d, 44).miniatureFirst use of the word "cell" to refer to biology, in this case to describe the structure of cork visible under a microscope. A new world unfolds, very different from what we see with the naked eye. For example, Hooke showed that a single point that appears to the naked eye as the tip of a needle is actually a rough end under the microscopeMetal. Hooke, a Fellow of the Royal Society, was also responsible for several technical advances in microscopy.

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Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680) was an entomologist who combined his long experience in dissection with the new possibilities of the microscope. Swammerdam paid special attention to insect reproduction and published hisGeneral History of InsectsIn 1669, Swammerdam discovered that caterpillars contained something that metamorphosed into butterfly wings.

Microscopes and the Scientific Revolution (4)

Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) was the founder of microscope-based plant anatomy. they are two famous worksVegetable dissection begins(1672) andplant anatomy(1682). In 1672, Grew was appointed Curator of Botany at the Royal Society, where he was the first to conduct an in-depth study of plant reproductive organs.

download microscope

Many scientists heralded the microscope's arrival, but so did other intellectuals. 17th century mechanical philosopher,René Descartes(1596-1650) is best known for his belief that the world around us could be better understood through the study of matter and motion. Microscopes seem to have been sent from heaven to help understand the microscopic mechanics of nature. However, the reaction to the microscope has not always been positive.

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The Christian Church was not necessarily opposed to the discovery of the microscope - Stelluti's first publication on the microscope was primarily dedicated to Pope Urban VIII (reigned 1623-1644). First, the new instrument has revealed the incredible detail and intelligence of life on Earth. From this point of view, if you believe it, it will only make people more admirable.OKhis job. Some theologians believe that a close study of nature can be as illuminating as reading about itBible. Also, a mechanistic interpretation of nature doesn't mean that divine acts like miracles don't happen (modern miracles are a common belief among Catholics, if not Protestants). Third, the focus on real mechanics reduces the appeal of teaching magic and superstition to traditional enemies. There are still some serious disagreements among engineersphilosophyand the Christian faith, especially the idea of ​​transfiguration - when priests turn bread and wine into body and bloodJesus ChristDuring Catholic Mass, many Protestants also had problems with mechanistic philosophy because it belittled God's active role in worldly affairs. Even if people believe in God, many people are troubled by the notion that the world is some sort of mechanical device that is essentially running on its own, a belief that has led to charges of atheism (meaning denying God's oversight, not denying God's exist) ). God).

Microscopes and the Scientific Revolution (5)

Some proponents of natural philosophy worry about the effects of microscopy (egTelescopes and the Scientific Revolution). There has been controversy over whether this new medium is credible and whether what they are uncovering is not a simple hoax. Some have argued that the evidence obtained using such instruments, even requiring the naked eye, is not the same as that obtained by the direct use of the senses. Others argue that since God gave us perfect eyes to see the world and see deeper, it's not the job of humans to show humans what they shouldn't see with a microscope, and it's considered disrespectful in a way of.


The microscope gradually declined in the 18th century. For example, a microscope is not a widely used instrument in medicine. Historian J. Henry explains why this happened:

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At least one reason why the microscope was not as important to the study of anatomy as the telescope was to the study of astronomy was that it was not approved by doctors. The telescope's ability to improve the accuracy of astronomical positions warrants its usefulness, but understanding the invisible structure of the instrument does not improve the efficiency of a medical system that is essentially based on the study and treatment of disease symptoms...Leading physicians like Thomas Sydenham (Thomas Sydenham (1624-89) and John Locke (1632-1704) explicitly opposed its use. (46)

In short, the telescope was used to prove existing theories wrong, while the microscope simply revealed that an entirely new set of theories now needs to be created. In this sense, the microscope was not, according to some historians, an integral part of the Scientific Revolution, which was a revolution against dominant ideas, often ideas that had prevailed since antiquity. However, this is not entirely true. Microscopists can challenge some popular beliefs, although if they were modified it would be difficult to destroy the entire edifice of Western thought. For example, it has long been thought that very small insects evolved spontaneously from invisible matter. Microscopy reveals that tiny insects actually go through reproductive cycles like larger organisms. A microscope might be fit for its purpose, expanding our knowledge of the world a bit. In reality, his problems lay in technical deficiencies in camera, lighting and slide preparation. When these problems are finally resolved, the organ will automatically appear.

Microscopes and the Scientific Revolution (6)

Microscopes have achieved as much as telescopes in one key area during the scientific revolution, and that's the idea of ​​zooming. For millennia, it was believed that the size of the world was somehow related to the size of the human body, leading to the first measurement systems using fingers, hands and feet. A telescope at one end of the scale and a microscope at the other demonstrates that the human mind requires an entirely new system of measurement to perceive, compare and contrast the wonders of the visible universe, from gigantic and distant planets to the tiniest hair on Earth. a flea.

Microscopes may not have dominated early science, but the instrument was very popular in the homes of the wealthy. Together with the family paintings and the cabinet of curiosities, it becomes a challenging game to impress the visitors. Despite being less expensive than telescopes, microscopes are still an expensive hobby. In the early 1700s, a standard microscope cost around £5 (equivalent to three months' wages at the time).SamuelFamous diarist Pepys (1633-1703) was inspired by Hookeminiature, which he called "the smartest book" (Jardine, 42), throws 5 shillings 10 shillings into a microscope to study. Unfortunately, like almost everyone else, Pepys had trouble seeing anything clearly through a microscope.

Better and more powerful microscopes eventually revived the instrument's scientific use. Isaac Newton predicted that "instruments magnified three or four thousand times may render atoms visible" (Gleick, 94). Other 17th-century thinkers hoped that microscopes would one day show the actual movement of particles and light in the air. The microscope returned to the forefront of science in the 19th century with the work of figures such as Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), whose pioneering studies of microbes led to major advances in disease control and vaccination. When more powerful microscopes such as the electron microscope were invented in the 1930s, the instrument had already taken its rightful place as one of the key instruments of modern scientific research.

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