Oak Bark was the first cell to be viewed under a light microscope. It was first observed in the 1660s by Robert Hooke. The microscope that Hooke used built on a simple compound microscope.
a) When was Oak Bark first Seen under a Microscope?
Before this observation, cells that are today known as the basic unit of life had never been discovered.
While observing a thin layer of Oak Bark (that is, Cork) under the microscope, Hooke noticed that they formed little perforated and porous cubicles.
Since the cubicles he observed reminded him of the cells in a monastery, he called them ‘cells’, thus giving the name to what biology later credited as the basic unit of life.
His microscope design featured three lenses and a stage light, increasing the compound microscope’s magnifying power and making the specimen clearer.
b) When were Microbes first Seen under a Microscope?
Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to observe microbes. He viewed them with a single-lens microscope in the 1670s, about 10 years after cells were first identified.
Before van Leeuwenhoek, microscopes tended to generate very hazy images. Though objects had been seen using the microscope, the earlier models lacked the magnifying power to spot microbes.
Anton van Leeuwenhoek’s works opened a new chapter in the field of microscopy. After observing bacteria with the microscope, he would later proceed to view the blood circulations within capillaries, spermatozoa, and protozoa.
Anton van Leeuwenhoek was so inspired and absorbed in the world of microscopes that he would view anything that piqued his interest.
He would use the microscope to check for microbes in human saliva, but I thought he stretched it when he viewed the plaque scrapings from his teeth for microbes!
But his most famous experiment was when he viewed microbes in lake water in 1674. He was astounded by how microbes moved and wriggled, each appearing clearly as if seen under naked eyes.
Anton van Leeuwenhoek himself regarded this moment as the most marvelous experience in his life’s work.
Anton van Leeuwenhoek wasn’t just a microscope user. He was also a microscope inventor. He came up with the most advanced lenses of the time when he ground the lenses, made them thinner, and improved their magnifying power to up to 270X.
Due to his cutting-edge contributions to microscopy, Anton van Leeuwenhoek is considered the father of microscopes. Through his craft, he made a simple hand-held microscope that has remained the most used microscope in scientific observations.
c) When were Atoms first Seen under a Microscope?
Atoms were first observed under a microscope in the 20th century. The prior centuries had seen several advancements in the discovery of the building blocks of life. But microscopes that use electron beams gave a better view of the atoms as atoms were too small for light microscopes.
Atoms aren’t easier to spot under a microscope like cells. They are tinier, measuring 1 × 10−10 meters in diameter. With electron beams, scientists were able to spot the atoms and study their insides further.
Atoms, further split into their varied components; electrons, neutrons, and protons present more opportunities for scientific exploration. JJ Thompson tinkered with electron beams to discover electrons.
Electrons are easily manipulated, and this made it easier for Thomson to identify the electrons. Using a funnily-shaped glass tube, he’d put a negative charge on one end of the tube, forcing the electrons to move towards the next end of the tube (electrons are negatively charged too). Later, James Chadwick would discover neutrons in 1932.
d) When Was DNA First Observed Under A Microscope?
DNA was first viewed under an electron microscope in 2012. Enzo di Fabrizio observed the DNA using an electron microscope by imaging the threads of DNA on a silicon bed of nails.
Interestingly, it took 60 years after the discovery of the DNA structure for the direct photos to be obtained by electron beams.
The famous double-helix structure of the DNA was first discovered using X-Ray crystallography, but a more transparent view through a microscope hadn’t been achieved. Through Enzo di Fabrizio and his colleague’s work, scientists now have the direct image of DNA.
The first cell viewed by the compound light microscope was a cork cell from oak bark. This was observed by Robert Hooke in the 1660s, and reported in his book Micrographia in 1665. About a decade later, Anton van Leuwenhoek identified microbes under a microscope. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that atoms were first seen under a microscope, and only the 21st Century that we finally got a direct photo of DNA under an electron microscope. To go deeper on this topic, explore my article on the history and timeline of microscopes.
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