Un­der the mi­cro­scope

U of T stu­dents in­vented the elec­tron mi­cro­scope

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - SPECIAL REPORT: TOP - Sean Plum­mer

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.

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