This chapter provides a historical foundation of the field of microscopy and outlines the significant discoveries in the fields of biology and medicine that are linked to the microscope. Microscopes, which are devices to image those objects that are invisible to the naked eye, were transformed from interesting instruments used by hobbyists to serious scientific instruments used to explore and understand the microscopic world. Because the technique of fluorescence microscopy is a major, if not the most widely used, application of both confocal microscopy and multiphoton excitation microscopy, I present a series of key developments of fluorescence microscopy. Microscopy began with the observation of live specimens and continues its growth with technical developments in the fields of intravital microscopy, endoscopy, and in vivo microscopy. In this chapter, I cite and discuss many of the advances in both biology and medicine that critically depended on the development of the optical microscope. These sections provide a framework for the book and support the premise that technical advances in microscopy have led to both the generation of new knowledge and understanding as well as advances in diagnostic and clinical medicine, which has ultimately resulted in an improvement of the human condition.
1.1 Timeline of Optical Microscope Development
The invention of the microscope (ca. 1600) and its improvements over a period of 400 years has resulted in great advances in our understanding of the microscopic world as well as extremely important advances in biology and medicine. The optical microscope, a device that in many cases was used as an interesting toy, became a key instrument in basic science and clinical research: it gives the observer a view of inner space, that is, the world that cannot be observed with the naked eye because of insufficient resolution, such as atoms, molecules, viruses, cells, tissues, and microorganisms.
The reader may ask, why were the numerous early advances made in the design and manufacture of telescopes not rapidly transferred to the microscope? A partial answer is that telescopes were the domain of physicists and mathematicians, whereas the design, construction, and use of the early optical microscopes were left to laypersons, those whom today we call hobbyists.
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