Richards, Oscar W. College of Optometry, Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon.
Last reviewed:May 2021
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An instrument used to obtain an enlarged image of a small object. Microscopes enable the visualization and gathering of information from samples and portions of samples that by definition are microscopic or cannot be seen with the naked eye. A broad way to classify microscopes is as simple or compound microscopes (Fig. 1). More granularly, microscopes can be classified by the kind of radiation they gather to form an image or representation of a sample. Optical or light microscopes, for instance, collect visible-light photons emitted and reflected by a sample, while electron microscopes illuminate a sample via a beam of electrons. Another major type of microscope is the scanning probe microscope, which involves a physical probe—such as a sharp tip in atomic force microscopy—that interacts with and thus scans the surface of a sample in order to generate an image. See also: Atomic force microscopy; Electron microscope; Optical microscope; Scanning tunneling microscope
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