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Origin and development of the microscope
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The origins of the microscope are linked to those of the telescope. The first microscopes, called compound microscopes, consisted of two or more lenses inserted into a rigid tube. The invention is attributed to Galileo, although, in the 17th C., the claim was contested by others. Giovanni Faber, a fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei, coined the word "microscope" to describe the instrument in 1625. The compound microscopes of the Italian Eustachio Divini and Giuseppe Campani testify to the significant improvements made to the instrument in the second half of the century, while, in England, Robert Hooke reached new levels of excellence. Other innovations were introduced in the 18th C. by English makers. The latter produced microscopes for the upper classes, who used the instrument for refined intellectual entertainment. The innovations mainly concerned the mechanical part of the instrument. By contrast, optical performances remained fairly poor because of spherical aberration and chromatic aberration. These were eliminated only in the first half of the 19th C., also thanks to the efforts of Giovan Battista Amici. The simple microscope, comprising a single lens, offered better optical performance. Having won acceptance in the second half of the 17th C., chiefly through the efforts of the Dutch naturalist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the simple microscope—despite its clear limitations—was preferred by naturalists, especially for fieldwork and dissection.

Objects
Camera lucida

Camera lucida

Inv. 3325
Nachet firm, Paris, after 1880

Chest type compound microscope

Chest type compound microscope

Inv. 3230
Peter Dollond, London, late 18th cent.

Compound and simple microscope

Compound and simple microscope

Inv. 2664, 3217
Andrew Pritchard, London, ca. 1835

Compound and simple microscope, chest type

Compound and simple microscope, chest type

Inv. 3210
James Ayscough, London, second half 18th cent.

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 1223
George Adams senior, London, ca. 1770

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 2649
Maker unknown, Italian, 1832-1862

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 2663
Maker unknown, Italian, 1832-1862

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 2661
Angiolo Poggiali [attr.], Italian, 1860-1880

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 2660
Maker unknown, Italian, 1845

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3172
Maker unknown, French, late 19th cent.

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3203
Giovanni Battista Amici, Modena, ca. 1827

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3206
Pietro Patroni, Milan, 1726

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3283
Nachet & Fils firm, Paris, ca. 1870

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3268
Edmund Hartnack, Potsdam, ca. 1880

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3267
Maker unknown, Italian, 1860-1880

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3259
Smith, Beck & Beck firm, London, ca. 1858

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3248
Pietro Patroni [attr.] or François de Baillou [attr.], Italian, early 18th cent.

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3247
Maker unknown, Italian, late 17th cent.

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3241
Maker unknown, Italian, ca. 1845

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3238
Maker unknown, Italian, 1832-1862

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 2662 (scatola), 3223
Maker unknown, Italian, 1832-1862

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 480, 3219, 3221
George Adams junior, London, ca. 1790

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3385
Maker unknown, Italian, 1832-1862

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3327
G. & S. Merz firm, Munich, ca. 1870

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3205
Georg Friedrich Brander, Augsburg, ca. 1765

Compound microscope

Compound microscope

Inv. 3201
Giovanni Battista Amici, Modena, 1827-1831

Compound microscope, binocular

Compound microscope, binocular

Inv. 2659
Maker unknown, Italian, ca. 1855

Compound microscope, binocular

Compound microscope, binocular

Inv. 3258
R. & J. Beck firm, London, ca. 1865

Compound microscope, body-tube

Compound microscope, body-tube

Inv. 3797
Maker unknown, Italian, early 18th cent.

Compound microscope, demonstration

Compound microscope, demonstration

Inv. 2672
Maker unknown, German?, late 19th cent.

Compound microscope, demonstration

Compound microscope, demonstration

Inv. 3208
Nachet firm, Paris, 1880-1892

Compound microscope, dissecting

Compound microscope, dissecting

Inv. 2648
Nachet & Fils firm, Paris, ca. 1875

Compound microscope, Galilean

Compound microscope, Galilean

Inv. 3429
Giuseppe Campani [attr.], Italian, second half 17th cent.

Compound microscope, inverted

Compound microscope, inverted

Inv. 2655 bis
Angiolo Poggiali, Italian, ca. 1868

Compound microscope, part of body-tube

Compound microscope, part of body-tube

Inv. 1309
Maker unknown, Italian, late 17th cent.

Duc de Chaulnes's microscope

Duc de Chaulnes's microscope

Inv. 3202
Maker unknown, ca. 1770

Hot stage

Hot stage

Inv. 3307
Carl Reichert, Vienna, after 1885

Lucernal and compound microscope

Lucernal and compound microscope

Inv. 502, 1457, 3222 (scatola), 3243 (microscopio)
George Adams junior, English, ca. 1791

Microspectroscope

Microspectroscope

Inv. 3292
Maker unknown, German, ca. 1885

Nuremberg compound microscope

Nuremberg compound microscope

Inv. 3390
Maker unknown, German, first half 19th cent.

Optical compendium

Optical compendium

Inv. 2681, 2682, 2683, 2684
Robert Banks, London, ca. 1811

Reflecting microscope

Reflecting microscope

Inv. 3171
Giovanni Battista Amici, Modena, 1815-1825

Reflecting microscope

Reflecting microscope

Inv. 3200
Giovanni Battista Amici, Modena, 1815-1825

Reflecting microscope

Reflecting microscope

Inv. 3209
Giovanni Battista Amici [attr.], Italian, 1815-1825

Simple microscope, aquatic

Simple microscope, aquatic

Inv. 3098
Chapotot, Paris, ca. 1700

Simple microscope, aquatic

Simple microscope, aquatic

Inv. 3233
Maker unknown, Italian?, second half 18th cent.

Simple microscope, dissecting

Simple microscope, dissecting

Inv. 3212
Peter Dollond (microscope), John Cuff (micrometer), London, ca. 1760-1770

Simple microscope, dissecting

Simple microscope, dissecting

Inv. 3324
Carl Kellner, Wetzlar, 1855-1869

Simple microscope, pocket

Simple microscope, pocket

Inv. 3239
Maker unknown, French or Dutch?, early 19th cent.

Solar microscope

Solar microscope

Inv. 3229
Isidoro Gaspare Bazzanti, Italian, 1760

Solar microscope

Solar microscope

Inv. 795
Peter Dollond, London, ca. 1800