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The Microscope

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the microscope, from its invention in the 17th century to the latest sophisticated imaging techniques.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the development of the microscope, an instrument which has revolutionised our knowledge of the world and the organisms that inhabit it. In the seventeenth century the pioneering work of two scientists, the Dutchman Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke in England, revealed the teeming microscopic world that exists at scales beyond the capabilities of the naked eye.

The microscope became an essential component of scientific enquiry by the nineteenth century, but in the 1930s a German physicist, Ernst Ruska, discovered that by using a beam of electrons he could view structures much tinier than was possible using visible light. Today light and electron microscopy are among the most powerful tools at the disposal of modern science, and new techniques are still being developed.


Jim Bennett
Visiting Keeper at the Science Museum in London

Sir Colin Humphreys
Professor of Materials Science and Director of Research at the University of Cambridge

Michelle Peckham
Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Leeds

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 28 Nov 2013 21:30


Sir Colin Humphreys at the University of Cambridge


Michelle Peckham at the University of Leeds


Royal Microscopical Society


Milestones timeline - Nature


Super-resolution microscopy - Nature


Milestones - Nature


Small Worlds - the art of the invisible


Super-Resolution Fluorescence Microscopy


Applications of Super-resolution STORM


Super-resolution microscopy at a glance


A guide to super-resolution fluorescence microscopy


Ernst Abbe


Ernst Abbe and the Foundation of Scientific Microscopes


Microscope - Wikipedia





Ivan Amato, Stuff: The Materials the World is Made Of (Basic Books, 1998)


S. Bradbury, The Evolution of the Microscope (Pergamon Press, 1967)


R. W. Cahn, The Coming of Materials Science (Pergamon, 2001)


L. Marton, Early History of the Electron Microscope (San Francisco Press, 1968)


Edward G. Ruestow, The Microscope in the Dutch Republic: The Shaping of Discovery (Cambridge University Press, 1996)


Gerard Turner, Essays on the History of the Microscope (Senecio, 1980)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Jim Bennett
Interviewed Guest Colin Humphreys
Interviewed Guest Michelle Peckham
Producer Thomas Morris


  • Thu 28 Nov 2013 09:00
  • Thu 28 Nov 2013 21:30

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