Under the microscope
U of T students invented the electron microscope
For scientists, it seemed an impossible dream: create an electron microscope.
Unlike optical microscopes, which use glass lenses to magnify objects, an electron microscope uses electrons instead of light to illuminate its subjects, which lets it magnify at much greater resolution.
Researchers had tried since the 1920s, but the images were invariably blurry. Until, that is, two young Canadian scientists, James Hillier and Albert Prebus, finally succeeded.
The ambitious graduate students in the physics program at the University of Toronto created their fully functioning transmission magnetic electron microscope in 1938. It could magnify objects up to 30,000 times. Today, electron microscopes can magnify up to 10 million times.