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MICROSCOPE (Gr. µucp6s, small, asenre...

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 392 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MICROSCOPE (Gr. µucp6s, small, asenreiv, to %view), an optical instrument for examining small objects or details of such objects; it acts by making the angles of vision under which the images appear greater than when the objects themselves are viewed by the naked eye. Microscopes are distinguished as simple and compound. A simple microscope consists of a single positive lens, or of a lens combination acting as a single lens, placed between the eye and the object so that it presents a virtual and enlarged image. The compound microscope generally consists of two positive lens systems, so arranged that the system nearer the object (termed the objective) projects a real enlarged image, which occupies the same place relatively to the second system (the eyepiece or ocular) as does the real object in the simple micro-scope. An image is therefore projected by the ocular from the real magnified image produced by the objective with increased magnification. History of the Simple Microscope.—Any solid or liquid trans-parent medium of lenticular form, having either one convex and one flat surface or two convex surfaces whose axes are coincident, may serve as a " magnifier," the essential condition being that it shall refract the rays which pass through it so as to cause widely diverging rays to become either parallel or but slightly divergent. Thus if a minute object be placed on a slip of glass, and a single drop of water be placed upon it, the drop will act as a magnifier in virtue of the convexity of its upper surface; so that when the eye is brought sufficiently near it (the glass being held horizontally) the object will be seen magnified. Again if a small hole be made in a thin plate of metal, and a minute drop of water be inserted in it, this drop, having two convex surfaces, will serve as a still more powerful magnifier. There is reason to believe that the magnifying power of transparent media withconvex surfaces was very early known. A convex lens of rock-crystal was found by Layard among the ruins of the palace of Niinrud; Seneca describes hollow spheres of glass filled with water as being commonly used as magnifiers. The perfect gem-cutting of the ancients could not have been attained without the use of magnifiers; and doubtless the artificers who executed these wonderful works also made them. Convex glass lenses were first generally used to assist ordinary vision as " spectacles "; and not only were spectacle-makers the first to produce glass magnifiers (or simple microscopes), but by them also the telescope and the compound microscope were first invented. During the Thirty Years' War the simple microscope was widely known. Descartes (Dioptrique, 1637) describes microscopes wherein a concave mirror, with its concavity towards the object, is used, in conjunction with a lens, for illuminating the object, which is mounted on a point fixing it at the focus of the mirror. Antony van Leeuwenhoek appears to be the first to succeed in grinding and polishing lenses of such short focus and perfect figure as to render the simple microscope a better instrument for most purposes than any compound microscope then constructed. At that time the " compass " microscope was in use. One leg of a compass carried the object, and the other the lens, the distance between the two being regulated by a screw. Stands were also in use, permitting the manipulation of the object by hand. Robert Hooke shaped the minutest of the lenses with which he made many of the discoveries recorded in his Micrographia from small glass globules made by fusing the ends of threads of spun glass; and the same method was employed by the Italian Father Di Torre. Early opticians and microscopists gave their chief attention to the improvement of the simple microscope, the principle of which we now explain.
End of Article: MICROSCOPE (Gr. µucp6s, small, asenreiv, to %view)
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