A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy. Microscopic means invisible to the eye unless aided by a microscope.
Types of microscopes
There are many types of microscopes. The most common (and the first to be invented) is the optical microscope, which uses light to image the sample.
Microscopes can be separated into several different classes. One grouping is based on what interacts with the sample to generate the image, i.e., light or photons (optical microscopes), electrons (electron microscopes) or a probe (scanning probe microscopes). Alternatively, microscopes can be classed on whether they analyse the sample via a scanning or analyse the sample all at once.
Wide field optical microscopes and transmission electron microscopes both use the theory of lenses in order to magnify the image generated by the passage of a wave transmitted through the sample, or reflected by the sample. The waves used are electromagnetic (in optical microscopes) or electron beams (in electron microscopes). Resolution in these microscopes is limited by the wavelength of the radiation used to image the sample, where shorter wavelengths allow for a higher resolution.
Scanning probe microscopes also analyse a single point in the sample and then scan the probe over a rectangular sample region to build up an image. As these microscopes do not use electromagnetic or electron radiation for imaging they are not subject to the same resolution limit as the optical and electron microscopes.