This week we take a look at an essential piece of medical equipment, the microscope.

The microscope is defined as an instrument used to examine anything which is difficult to see by the naked eye. Various types of contraptions designed for this magnifying purpose have been present for thousands of years, however the microscope design we are familiar with today first came into use in the 17th Century. This design involves an objective lens which is directed close to the object requiring magnification, and an eyepiece with which the user views the image.

The monocular microscope consists of as single tube and eyepiece. They are typically used to study microscopic organisms, including cells.

Monocular microscope belonging to Sir Joseph Cooke Verco; ca 1870.

The binocular microscope consists of two eye pieces and was developed to help reduce the eye and muscular strain that often occurs through the use of a single eyepiece.

Olympus Binocular Microscope; ca 1980.

Microscopes designed for specific purposes are common. Portable microscopes allowed scientists to make examinations in the field. They were typically designed with foldable or tractable legs which allowed the microscope to stand alone securely. Carry cases contained extra lenses which could be swapped into place, with multiples included in case of breakage.

Portable field microscope belonging to Bacteriologist Dr James E McCartney; 1890.

The dissecting microscope was designed for use in fine dissection observations. It included a mirror underneath the lense and handrests at each side to allow the user to perform accurate specimen dissections under microscope.

Dissecting microscope; ca 1931.

These are just some of the microscopes we have in our collection.

Written by Jasmin Clark, CALHN Health Museum.