Cells make up organisms. Organisms such as bacteria can be unicellular, meaning one cell, while organisms such as humans are multi-cellular, meaning many cells. Each cell uses nutrients which it converts to energy, carries out specialized duties and can reproduce. The special duties each cell carries out is stored within the cell itself. Microscopes have made it possible to watch these cells perform their specific functions, as well as reproduce.
Robert Hooke devised the compound microscope with an illumination system that allowed him to view cells better. The importance of the microscope in the study of cells was a breakthrough in technology. The microscope allowed the viewing of a cell for the first time by the human eye. The illumination addition to the microscope by Hooke made the cell even more visible for further study.
The first microscope increased the magnification of smaller objects such as cells. The invention revolutionized cell study, because now scientist could see an individual cell. What magnification does is increase the size of the cell, so the intricate parts of the cell could be observed. Scientists soon found out that just magnifying the cells was not good enough because not all cells could be observed because of their varying sizes.
Another important aspect of microscopes in the study of cells is that it provides a better resolution. The resolution of a microscope allowed scientists to distinguish or separate the different cells. For example, nerves in the human body can be as long as one meter, but the nerve is made of many different cells. Increasing the resolution of a microscope allowed the scientist to distinguish or separate the cells that make up the entire nerve and watch the actions of each nerve cell. Another importance of microscope resolution within the study of cells is the ability of the scientists to see damage or defects in the cell.
The introduction of dyes and the electron microscope took the study of cells even further. These inventions allowed scientists to distinguish one part of the cell from another. Not only could a scientist see any damage or defect to the cell, he or she could pinpoint the exact location within the cell that was damaged or defective. The contrast advanced the study of cells by letting the scientist see the formation of disease within a cell. Once a scientist could see the formation of diseases such as cancer he or she could attempt to treat the cell. The contrast of a microscope allows the scientist to observe the treatment and determine if that treatment was working.
- Photo Credit Martin Poole/Stockbyte/Getty Images