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50 Years Ago

Cell visible by own light

1:00pm, March 12, 2014
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Scientists can now “see” a single living cell made visible by its own light. A new image intensifier, which amplifies the very faint light of an individual cell in a way somewhat like the television screen makes its bright picture, has been developed. It can be made to amplify light as much as a million and a half times….

George T. Reynolds of Princeton … used the image intensifier with a microscope to take pictures of Noctiluca miliaris, a tiny sea creature that gives the ocean its phosphorescent glow when present in large numbers…. The image intensifier consists of a photo-sensitive surface and a viewing screen, with five intervening membranes of aluminum oxide, each a one-hundred-thousandth of an inch thick.


George Reynolds’ imaging process sped up the process of crystallography, used to determine protein structures. Reynolds and his colleagues went on to develop automated X-ray detectors, which led to the charge-coupled devices or CCDs that now collect most protein structural data.

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