I, have a great affection for the microscope; it’s a fantastic tool that can reveal the world in a way the eye alone can not. With a microscope one can look at things differently, deliberately. One hesitates to mention seeing “the ocean in a drop of water” the phrase having been so often repeated, it looses not only it’s meaning but it’s power to entice interest. There is more in the world than oceans and more in the dust on ones mantel than lax housekeeping.
The microscope was once a magnificent invention, a wonder, able to command the attention of the finest minds and richest kings. Those first instruments were crude optically, difficult to operate, and secret. Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek saw the hidden treasures of the world around him and shared it with all who would listen, but never revealed the secrets of his microscopes construction. Not until the 1950’s were the finer points of his methods found out. Long after the toys on department store shelves surpassed his finest efforts in both magnification and resolution, van Leeuwenhoek garnered attention. What van Leeuwenhoek did beyond grinding lenses and peering at wonders, was get people interested in what he was doing.
Today anyone can buy a microscope. From a toy with plastic lenses to a scanning electron set up, microscopes are available to everyone and can be found to fit every budget. They are ubiquitous to an extent that most people know at some level how to operate them, even if they don’t know the finer points. Few students will complete their education without at least examining a bit of onion or a smear of cheek cells on a microscope slide. For many people their exposure to microscopes ends there.
It doesn’t have to end though. Microscopy can be pursued for little expense and prove to be a rewarding hobby. Unfortunately, it can be quite daunting to make the leap from looking at a drop of water to staining a cut section, or building a collection of permanent mounts. While there is an abundance of information available for the beginner, and countless specialized texts for professionals, there is not a great deal in between for those who are not students.
I propose to make some meager effort in this regard and document some of my microscopic pursuits here. Perhaps it should prove useful to someone.