Physical and geometric optics of the microscope and their implications for practice.


This website is intended as a freely accessible primer in microscopy for educational purposes or self-study. Text and figures may be multiplied provided this is not done commercially. High-school levels of mathematics and physics are perfectly sufficient and not really required, even.

As the text is also aimed at self-study and many amateurs will wish to use a "vintage" microscope and/or are of an experimental inclination, this situation is also taken into account. The corresponding text is in italics, like this. Keywords are in blue, warnings and crucial points are in red.

Sadly the author, Frithjof A S Sterrenburg, passed away in March 2016. If there any queries about the Primer, please contact the Micscape Editor, David Walker via the Contact Form on the main site index.

Revision history:The zip file has been updated to include these.
September 2002. Uploaded.
October 2002. A section on infinity-corrected optics has been added to Chapter 8.
October 2005. Minor revision to chapter 6 on using digital cameras.

Directly access each chapter via the links below. Or download the entire suite (text and images) in
html format as a zip file (1.3 Mbytes) for
offline reading and/or printing.

1. Introduction
2. A Brief History
3. Components
4. Basic Microscopy
5. Geometric Microscope Optics
6. Physical Optics in Microscopy
7. Illumination
8. Special Microscopy Techniques


Download the file (ca. 1.3 Mbytes).

Notes on the downloadable file.


Hosted by Micscape Magazine, the monthly magazine of Microscopy-UK.

September 2002
Frithjof A. S. Sterrenburg Ltd, Microscopy-UK, and all contributors 1995 onwards. All rights reserved. Main site is at with full mirror at