Who invented the microscope?

Zacharias Janssen was born in Middelburg, in The Netherlands, in 1588, and died in the same city in 1638. He came from a family that manufactured lenses. His father was Hans Janssen. Although the origin of the microscope is a question still uncertain, he is regarded as the inventor of the compound microscope (with two lenses), perhaps with his fathers’ help, in year 1595.

The recognition of this invention is generally allowed to Zacharias Janssen in Middelburg, in The Netherlands. Since Zacharias was very young at the time, Hans Lippershey may have manufactured the first, but Janssen took over production.

The first compound microscopes produced by Janssen were simply a tube of 45 cm long and 5 cm in diameter with a convex lens at each end. This instrument came to have between 3 and 9 magnifications, depending on the size of the diaphragm aperture.

There is a legend that says that Zacharias Janssen, during his childhood, discovered the microscope while playing with another child with damaged lenses in the Hans Lippershey workshop. They held two lenses before their eyes in the direction of the vane of the local church and watched as it seemed to come closer. Lippershey, of course, saw this toy a useful tool for making money and named it optical tube. But this legend may be apocryphal, since in fact the origin of the microscope is still in debate. The Dutch diplomat William Boreel, later testified that Lippershey had stolen the idea of this instrument to Janssen when he was just 2 years old.

However, there are serious reasons based on the personality of Zacharias Janssen to believe that he isn’t really the author of the microscope, as he had a reputation for dishonesty, since he had made fortune by forging Spanish copper coins and then continued forging gold and silver coins.

Thanks to the first microscope, countless lenses started to be seen, which before were not visible, and a better study of what was already looked before could be done. New colors appeared, ducts and blood vessels in all bodies; new living beings appeared, in such amount that outnumbered those previously known.