Microscopes have come a long way since 1665

Scopes deliver stunning cell images 350 years after Robert Hooke’s Micrographia

cork and cow cells

CENTURIES OF PROGRESS  A Robert Hooke drawing from his 1665 book Micrographia (right) depicts little boxes in a slice of cork that he called cells. Today microscopes provide extraordinary views of cells, like these (left) from a cow.

Robert Markus; The Royal Society

In 1665, English scientist Robert Hooke published Micrographia, a book full of drawings depicting views through what was then a novel invention: the microscope. Peering at a slice of cork through a scope much like the one below (right), Hooke noticed small, boxlike partitions that he called cells (drawing above).

Now, 350 years later, cutting-edge microscopes enable biologists to study cells in extraordinary detail (SN: 6/15/13, p. 20). The above left photo, named an image of distinction in the 2015 Nikon Small World competition, shows cells that line the pulmonary artery of a cow; nuclei (purple), mitochondria (yellow) and structural fibers (blue) are clearly visible. Capturing the image required a super-resolution microscope (below, left) that Hooke could only have dreamed about in the 17th century.

ZOOM ZOOM Robert Hooke’s microscope (right) was impressive in its day, but it’s got nothing on the super-resolution microscope used to image the cow cells. Zeiss; Science Museum/Blythe House (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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