What is a microscope?

A microscope is a piece of scientific equipment that lets us see very small things that our eyes otherwise couldn't see. The microscope uses lenses, similar to those in glasses or a magnifying glass, to make things look bigger – this is called magnification.



Magnification describes how much bigger an object is made to look through the microscope. If something has a 100x magnification, it looks 100 times bigger than its actual size.



Something is called ‘microscopic’ when it is too small to see with our eyes alone. Microscopes allow us to see these microscopic things, such as the tiny details of minerals, plants and animals. The study of microscopic things is called microscopy. 


How does a microscope work?

The microscope we most often see is called a light microscope. It uses a light to help us look at the tiny details of the thing we are investigating (our sample). We can use a light microscope to study cells, parasites and some bacteria. Look at the image of a microscope, and click on each part to find out how it helps us to investigate our sample.




Now you have learnt what a microscope is! Why not return to the microscope homepage, discover how a microscope works, try our microworld ID or learn about electron microscopes!