Microscope history: Science or Art??

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From:"Tim Morken" <timcdc@hotmail.com>
Date:Wed, 14 Apr 1999 12:59:03 EDT


I only want to point out that microscopy started much earlier. Robert 

Hooke made a compound microscope in 1595. Antony van Leeuwenhoek made 

his discoveries starting around 1668. Van Leeuwenhoek actually coined 

the term "cells" in describing the microscopic appearance of cork. 

Interestingly, van Leeuwenhoek's single-lens microscopes were about 

ten times better in magnifiying power than the compound microscopes of 

the day allowing him to see micro-organisms for the first time.  His 
lenses were of such excellent quality that it has been 

only with great difficulty that reproductions of his lenses have been 

reproduced in modern times. These early microscopes were far from 
being toys.

Incidently, van Leeuwenhoek hired an artist to draw the 'animacules' 
he saw under his microscope as he was no good at drawing so the 
reports he sent to the Royal Society were a blend of science and art.

For more information see:


Tim Morken, B.A., EMT(MSA), HTL(ASCP)  
Infectious Disease Pathology 
Centers for Disease Control 
1600 Clifton Rd. 
Atlanta, GA 30333 
email: tim9@cdc.gov 
FAX:  (404)639-3043

----Original Message Follows----
From: Paul Millikin <millikin@mtco.com>
To: histonet@Pathology.swmed.edu
Subject: Histology: Science or Art??
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 17:25:16 -0700

Paul Millikin
Peoria, IL
Histology was born as a science, and is just barely past its 160th
birthday. Before that time, Science had only the most rudimentary 
knowledge about the structure of living matter.  Then in 1838, a 
botanist, Jakob Matthias Schleiden, proposed that all plant tissue was
composed of cells. 

The following year, a German physiologist and anatomist, Theodor 
of Scwhann cell fame, proposed that all animal tissues were also 
of cells. 

That Cell Theory of Life was a major "breakthrough" at the time, 
a scientific furore at least as exciting as the discovery of 
penicillin in
modern times.   

However, there were no tools ready-made fo studying these new 
Microscopes were of poor quality and widely regarded as toys, so 
optics had to be invented, and some high caliber science went into the

Similarly, every single tool used by each of us every day had to be 
by SOMEBODY, and some of the finest minds in all of science were 
attracted to
that area.  For example, the first microtome was a straight razor, and 
earliest stain was carmine, which stained nuclei red and everything 
else pink. 
Nothing was known of how to fix tissue hard enough to permit cutting 
sections, and all the embedding media had to be discovered.  
Endless manhours went into finding stains better than carmine. 

Names like Zenker, Heidenhain, Abbe, Helly, Harris, Delafield, and 
more comprised scientists that served in the Histology Delivery Room. 
list has since grown to include dozens, perhaps hundreds of the finest 
in all of science. 

However, all of us who work in histology everyday recognize the art 
On difficult days, some have even called it a black art. 

Clearly both science and art integral parts of the process, and are 
interchangeable.  When a brand new procedure is called for, Science 
rises to
the fore.  When a "drop dead gorgeous" slide is called for, Art takes 

Paul Millikiin
Peoria, IL, USA#026#

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