Let's Learn! What are Microscopes?

1. How Do Microscopes Work?

Microscopes are devices which use lenses and illumination to make small things look larger and to make target objects (= things that you want to see magnified) more clearly visible. Generally, microscopes are made up of a number of different lenses which work in combination. With the illumination system, the way that the illumination is applied and the type of illumination can be changed, depending on the nature of the object to be looked at, to make it appear clearer.
Regular microscopes mainly consist of two types of lenses, an objective lens and an eyepiece, as well as a stage to place the target object on and illumination system. The object that is placed on the stage is first magnified by the objective lens which is close to it. It is then further magnified by the eyepiece, making the object look larger.

The objective lens also includes a combination of a number of lenses so that it can make the object look clearer.

2. What Can Be Seen with a Microscope?

Then what degree of a small item can be seen with a microscope? The smallest size of objects which can be seen with the human eyes is said to be about 0.1 mm, or, that is to say, about the thickness of a human hair.
The "optical microscopes" made by Olympus are able to see items as small as 0.2 μm (micrometer), or, that is, items that are about 0.0002 mm in size. If items that can be seen by the human eyes are considered to be 1 time, then optical microscopes make it possible to see items about 1,500 times smaller.

Let's see what some objects actually look like when viewed with a microscope.

Microscopes are not only used to look at living things like this, but in a variety of other ways.
We will now explain the history of early microscopes.

3. History of Microscopes

The first "microscope" is believed to have been made in 1590 when two lenses were combined by Hans and Zacharias Janssens, father and son glasses makers, in the Netherlands. However, because the magnification at the time was low, it appears to have been seen as a toy which allowed people to see rare things.

Then around 1665, an Englishman named Robert Hooke invented a microscope which could magnify things using two lenses. This is known as a "compound microscope" and is the basis of today’s microscopes. Hooke observed cork cells and fleas, and left behind very detailed and accurate drawings of his observations.

Around the same time, a man in the Netherlands named Anton van Leeuwenhoek also made a microscope. It was a very small and simple "single-lens microscope", with one lens, which only increased the magnifying power of a magnifying glass. But the magnification was as large as about 70-250 times. With this microscope, red blood cells in the blood and microorganisms in water were discovered, with the discoveries becoming the basis for the study of life.

After this, improvements were made, mainly in Germany, to microscope lenses and illumination system, establishing the basic form of the modern microscope.
Incidentally, the first microscope was said to have been imported into Japan in the Edo Period, around 1750. Then in 1781, the first microscope was made in Japan, which was still made of wood. After this, in the Meiji Era, around 1880, metal microscopes began to be imported from Germany and other countries.

4. The Olympus Microscope Was Born

Olympus first made microscopes in Japan in 1920, about 100 years ago. At the time there were a lot of people in Japan who needed microscopes, but the microscopes manufactured overseas were so expensive that it was difficult for many people to get one.
At this time, Japan's main export item to foreign countries was raw silk. Raw silk is made from silkworm cocoons, so of course if all the silkworms should suddenly get sick and die, it would no longer be possible to make raw silk. At this time in Japan, the examination of silkworms' diseases using microscopes was very important.

So, Olympus took up the challenge of producing inexpensive microscopes which were easy for people to get and was successful in mass producing many of quality. This microscope was called "Asahi".

Since this initial mass production of microscopes in Japan, Olympus microscopes have continued to evolve. In the next section, we will describe the various areas in which Olympus microscopes are actively used today.

5. Fields Where Microscopes Play an Active Role

There are a number of different types of Olympus microscopes, and here we will explain how and where they are used.

At hospitals

Olympus microscopes are used by doctors at hospitals, and by examination experts called clinical laboratory technicians at examination centers. They are used to look at the cells, blood and urine of people and animals, and to examine and diagnose diseases, etc.

Olympus microscopes used at hospitals and examination centers, etc.

Microscopes used to examine cells, blood and urine, etc., and when diagnosing diseases.

At laboratories

Olympus microscopes are used by professors, students and researchers at various laboratories in universities and companies. Microscopes are used in studies attempting to solve the mysteries of life, to make detailed examinations of diseases to develop new medicines effective against them, and in the research and development of new durable materials to be used in products. For example, they are widely used in a variety of research and development, such as in the fields of life science and medicine for the "study of iPS cells" and the "study of brain and nerve function", and in industrial fields such as in the "study of new materials that are light and soft, but strong and durable".

Olympus microscopes used at universities and laboratories, etc.

Finest microscopes suitable for the latest advanced research.
Also used by researchers who have won Nobel Prizes.

At manufacturing plants

Olympus microscopes are also used in the manufacturing and inspection departments at the manufacturing plants of various companies. Microscopes are useful when assembling small parts, and to inspect fine details of products before they are sold, to make sure that they were made correctly.

Olympus microscopes used at manufacturing plants

Stereomicroscope capable of looking at items in 3D. Used to assemble small parts and to inspect the details of products.

Industrial microscope utilizing laser technology. A microscope which uses the latest advanced technology to accurately measure the size of small things.

In this way, Olympus microscopes are used to contribute to medical and scientific research and at manufacturing sites. In addition to this, microscopes are used in a variety of fields in our society, including the inspection of water supply quality and food inspections, etc.

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