Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Microscopes
Microscopes slowly evolved from crude magnifying lenses during this period. The first recorded microscope consisted of a pair of draw tubes with a converging objective and diverging eye lens made by Dutch inventors Zacharias and Hans Janssen (Zacharias was a boy at the time).
During the second half of the seventeenth century, microscope design forked into two avenues of development. In England, instrument makers were building tripod-style microscopes from wood, pasteboard, and leather (illustrated above), while Italian designers made smaller microscopes from turned wood and brass. It was also during this period that several prominent microscopists conducted fundamental experiments that have defined microscopy throughout the ages. Pioneers such as Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Robert Hooke, Giuseppe Campani, and Marcello Malpighi made significant discoveries that paved the road for future microscopists.
Download our Museum of Microscopy screen saver for Windows.
Janssen's Microscope - The first known compound microscope, made by Zacharias and Hans Janssen in the 1590's.
Leeuwenhoek Microscope - Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was an amateur Dutch scientist who was granted the honor of Fellowship in the Royal society for his discoveries in microscopy and high quality, but crude optical microscopes.
Early Sliding Rod Microscope - This middle seventeenth century version of the simple one-lens microscope uses a sliding rod to focus the specimen.
Early Simple Spring Microscope - Another example of a simple microscope from the seventeenth century that uses a spring to hold the specimen in place.
Jan Swammerdam Simple Microscope - Designed by the Dutch scientist Jan Swammerdam, this microscope was built sometime in the mid-1670s and utilizes small bead lenses (one or two millimeters in diameter) that produce a magnification of around 150x, similar to the microscopes of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.
Depovilly Simple Microscope - Elegantly crafted from brass and ivory, this early French single-lens microscope holds eight specimens in its sample holder.
Italian Microscope Designs - Several of the most significant seventeenth century developments in compound microscope design and construction occurred in Italy.
British Microscope Designs - The English tripod microscope was the prominent design motif during the latter half of the seventeenth century. These microscopes were only produced by a few instrument makers, but they were sold in shops throughout London and other British cities.
Musschenbroek's Low Power Microscope - Johan Joosten van Musschenbroek, a famous Leyden instrument maker, designed and built this single-lens low power microscope with an elaborate jointed specimen holder.
Compound Monocular Tripod Microscope - This 24-inch high microscope is adorned in gold-stamped green vellum, and was probably made in France during the late 1600s.
Dutch Simple Brass Microscope - A simply constructed multipurpose microscope that may have a Dutch origin.
Divini Compound Monocular Microscope - Eustachio Divini, the great Italian optics pioneer and telescope maker, designed the compound monocular microscope illustrated in this section around 1668.
The Great Double Microscope - John Marshall built this popular microscope toward the end of the seventeenth century.
John Yarwell Compound Monocular Microscope - A take-off on the Great Double design by Marshall, this Yarwell instrument was state-of-the-art in the late seventeenth century.
Hartsoeker Screw-Barrel Microscope - British optician and instrument maker James Wilson is often credited with creating the screw-barrel simple microscope in 1702, but it was actually Dutch mathematics and physics professor Nicolas Hartsoeker who first invented the device.
French Simple Aquatic Microscope - Originally designed by Christiaan Huygens, this brass microscope was probably made by Louis Chapotot or his son around 1700.
Questions or comments? Send us an email.
© 1998-2021 by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University. All Rights Reserved. No images, graphics, scripts, or applets may be reproduced or used in any manner without permission from the copyright holders. Use of this website means you agree to all of the Legal Terms and Conditions set forth by the owners.
This website is maintained by our