Of all the techniques used in biology microscopy is probably the most important. The vast majority of living organisms are too small to be seen in any detail with the human eye, and cells and their organelles can only be seen with the aid of a microscope.
Compare Robert Hooke´s early microscope from around 1664 to a modern day scanning electron microscope. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs just launched an electron microscope that costs $27 million! This microscope can make images to a resolution of half the width of a hydrogen atom making it the most powerful microscope in the world. Imagine what Robert Hooke would say if he could see what a modern day microscope can show us about the micro universe in cells.
Above: Robert Hooke´s early microscope from 1665.
Above: What Robert Hooke could see with his early microscope. Robert Hooke cut cork into very thin slices and was able to see lots of different compartments which we now know are cells.
Above: A Typical Microscope that we would use at school.
Above: Plant cells as seen under a school microscope with the chloroplasts and cell walls between adjacent cells clearly visible.
Above: A contemporary Scanning Electron Microscope. Notice how one can take a photo and upload your work immediately to a computer.
Above: The kind of incredible detail that can be seen with an electron scanning microscope. A photograph of what you see under a microscope is called a photomicrograph.