Less than 500 years ago, people believed that illnesses were caused by evil spirits or poisonous gases. Today, we know that many illnesses are caused by germs and microscopic viruses and bacteria that we cannot see. This is possible because of the microscope.
The first microscope was probably invented by Hans and Zacharias Jansen in the 1600s. These early microscopes had compound lenses, which means they used two pieces of glass. The microscopes were not very powerful. They could magnify something only 20 times.
Robert Hooke published a book in 1665 called Micrographia that featured illustrations of objects he had seen using his microscope. Other people became interested in microscopes after seeing his book. In the late 1660s, Antony van Leeuwenhoek made his own powerful microscope from one lens. His microscope could magnify things up to 200 times. He discovered cells in blood, animal tissue and plant tissue. He even discovered bacteria by looking at plaque from his own teeth. Yuck!
Fun Facts about Microscopic Life for Kids
- Today, people still use compound microscopes, but they are much improved. You can have a good microscope to use in your home or school.
- There are trillions of mini-animals and microbes that you cannot see. The microscopic world includes viruses, bacteria, protists, microscopic fungi and mini-animals.
- Todays compound microscopes use light to illuminate organisms. Light microscopes are so powerful that they can magnify something by 1,000 times.
- A micrograph is a photograph of something seen in a microscope.
Microscopic Life Vocabulary
- Spirit: demon, ghost or person without a body
- Compound: more than one
- Illustration: drawing
- Plaque: gunk on your teeth
- Illuminate: light up; make clear and visible
Learn More About Things You Can’t See: Microscopic Life
Watch this interesting video about microscopic organisms.
A video about the advantages and disadvantages of things you can’t see: microscopic life.
Microscopic Life Q&A
Question: How are organisms viewed under a microscope?
Answer: Organisms are placed between a slide, which is two pieces of plastic or glass.
Question: Why are some slides colored?
Answer: Many microorganisms are transparent, which means they have no color. It is impossible to see these organisms, even when they’re magnified. Adding dye to them makes them visible.
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