Since the 16th century, people have been intrigued with finding ways to view objects
in more detail using increasingly
complex methods of magnification.
In 1590, two eyeglass makers in the
Netherlands created the first microscope. Antoni van Leeuwenhoek made
two of the earliest discoveries, when
he brought red blood cells and microorganisms into focus. Since then,
microscopes have been used widely in
medicine, forensics, and classrooms
to conduct investigations, promote
inquiry, or simply satisfy curiosity.
Before the advent of affordable digital microscopes, the magnified images
students viewed in class were often
blurry, poorly lit, and visible by only
one student at a time. Teachers used
microscopes only in science classes,
and activities were usually limited to
viewing prepared slides.
Today’s digital microscopes provide
students and teachers with a much
larger array of possibilities. One of the
most significant improvements has
been the addition of recording capabilities. Even some microscopes under
$50 have the ability to photograph still
images, allowing students to capture
what they see, edit the image, and
include it in a digital slideshow or
movie. They can also label the parts of
a magnified item, indicate subtle differences between similar specimens,
or show the progression of developmental stages of an organism.
Almost all digital microscopes can
also record video. Students can edit
the recordings, insert text screens
or diagrams, and add voiceovers for
explanation. Time-lapse functions
record change over time, allowing
students to capture images as often as
once a second.
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