Microscopes As Tools

Tools are objects used to improve the performance of a task. Microscopes are tools that extend human vision by making enlarged images of objects. Biologists use microscopes to study organisms, cells, cell parts, and molecules. Microscopes reveal details that otherwise might be difficult or impossible to see.

Light Microscopes

To see small organisms and cells, biologists typically use a light microscope, such as the one shown in Figure 1-13. A compound light microscope is a microscope that shines light through a specimen and has two lenses to magnify an image. To use this microscope, one first mounts the specimen to be viewed on a glass slide. The specimen must be thin enough for light to pass through it. For tiny pond organisms, such as the single-celled paramecium, light passing through the organism is not a problem. For thick objects, such as plant stems, biologists must cut thin slices for viewing. There are four major parts of a compound light microscope. For further description of the parts of a microscope, see the Appendix.

1. Eyepiece The eyepiece (ocular (AHK-yoo-luhr) lens) magnifies the image, usually 10 times.

2. Objective Lens Light passes through the specimen and then through the objective lens, which is located directly above the specimen. The objective lens enlarges the image of the specimen. Scientists sometimes use stains to make the image easier to see.

3. Stage The stage is a platform that supports a slide holding the specimen. The slide is placed over the opening in the stage of the microscope.

4. Light Source The light source is a light bulb that provides light for viewing the image. It can be either light reflected with a mirror or an incandescent light from a small lamp.

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