What is a Compound Microscope?

Understanding the history of microscopes is necessary to differentiate among the types and appreciate specific configurations and the way they produce optimal images. The three microscopes that are widely used include the inverted microscope, stereo, and compound microscope.

What Is a Compound Microscope?

The term microscope is derived from two separate terms, “micro” and “scope”. As you know, the term micro means anything small or tiny and scope means to observe or view. Therefore, the microscope is an instrument to study tiny elements. The constraints of the simple microscope regarding resolutions and the magnifying power gave way to the invention of compound microscopes. The image formed is a product of two main optical components, the objective lens, and the eyepiece (ocular lens). The objective lens magnifies the object and that is multiplied or compounded by the eyepiece.

The objective lens is placed close to the object as it has a short focal length. It portrays a real image in the front focal plane of the second lens, which is the eyepiece. The ocular lens on it forms a virtual, enlarged image that the observer gets to see.

What Is a Compound Light Microscope?

A compound light microscope comes with its own source of light. The function of a light microscope is to target a beam of light on a specimen, to produce an image. The specimen you are studying must be thin and transparent. The image is positioned to pass through one or two lenses for greater magnification so that you get an enlarged view. The transparency of the specimen adds to the advantage so as the light can penetrate through it.

Brightfield light microscope (compound light microscope) is mostly used in microbiology laboratories. The mechanism works to produce a dark image against a bright background. As it provides optimum magnification, people use it for studying cell organelles of plants and animals and some parasites like paramecium after staining.

Who Invented the Compound Microscope?

A dutch father-son duo, Hans, and Zacharias Janssen were the people behind the idea of compound microscopes. It was in the late 16th century when they discovered that positioning a lens on the top and bottom of a tube can magnify any object looked through it. This device was only a draft, laying the groundwork for future breakthroughs. At that time, the device only magnified 3x-9x.

The microscope was made with a handheld cylindrical center and a movable eyepiece, along with objective tubes. The bi-convex eyepiece and plano-convex objective lenses provided magnification but were not enough to increase resolution. The images that appeared were blurry and obscured. As a result, it did not help any scientific breakthroughs for about 100 years. By the late 1600s, the lenses got upgraded, increasing the quality of the image, and magnifying it up to 270x. This allowed major discoveries like the study of cellular biology by Robert Hooke.

Why Is a Light Microscope Called Compound Microscope?

The most used light microscope in laboratories is the compound microscope. It functions to magnify an object with greater magnification than a simple microscope. An average of them comes with an apparatus called the condenser, attached to their base. The diaphragm on the condenser is the controller of the amount of light that is required.

To enlarge the target, a ray of light is focused onto it and into the objective. The ocular lens magnifies the image by turning it into an object. The total magnification attainable for a compound microscope is the magnification acquired by the objective multiplied by the magnification reached by the ocular lens.

What Is the Compound Microscope Used For?

Compound microscopes find many uses in practical life. It is a well-appreciated device in a variety of scientific fields that work for different purposes.

Tissue Analysis

Histologists often pick up a compound microscope to study cells and tissues. A section of tissue is extracted to examine for cancerous growth under the microscope along with other tools. It also assists in blood analysis in pathological labs.

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Examining Forensic Evidence

The clues in a crime scene are often not visible with the naked eyes. Samples of human cells, paper, etc are taken to forensic laboratories to examine. The striations in a bullet are often examined under a microscope to help match if the bullets were fired from a particular gun.

Examining the Health of an Ecosystem

The job of a field biologist requires him to monitor the health of a particular ecosystem, like a stream or river. Examining under the microscope helps them understand the number and diversity of organisms in that region.

Understanding the Role of Protein in a Cell

Research scientists study the parts of cells and the function of protein within them. Due to the advanced technology, they have been able to label many proteins within cells.

Detection of Drugs

Compound microscopes are powerful enough to study the particles of drugs and detect the kind.

How Many Lenses Does a Compound Microscope Have?

The compound microscope comes with two main lenses, the objective lens, and the eyepiece lens. The objective lens typically varies from the power of 4x, 10x, 40 to 100x, which gets compounded or multiplied by the eyepiece lens, the power of 10x. According to the power, you can obtain high magnification ranging between 40x, 100x, 400x, and 1000x.

What Is the Maximum Magnification of a Compound Light Microscope?

The maximum magnification provided by a compound light microscope is 1000x. It means that the image you see is 1000 times larger than what the actual specimen is. A compound microscope has truly been a milestone in the scientific world that has paved the way for discoveries in the field of medical, forensic, and environmental science.

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