The birth of microscopy is here shown to be very different from the traditional view. Standard texts inform us that pioneers, like Hooke, used compound microscopes to investigate the microscopic world. Yet there is a paradox: the fine images in works like Hooke’s Micrographia (1665) include details that contemporaneous compound microscopes could not resolve.
The single lensed (=simple) microscope has been dismissed as a crude instrument of limited capacity, and recent demonstrations on television have confirmed this view. Today we shall discover that remarkably clear images were obtained by lenses of diminutive size (often no larger than the head of a pin). The work of Hooke, Leeuwenhoek and Robert Brown is re-examined, and their remarkable results are now reconciled with the technical capacity of the instruments they used in their investigations.
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