Who invented electron microscopes?

Here’s a brief history of the key moments in electron microscopy—so far!

  • 1924: French physicist Louis de Broglie (1892–1987) realizes that electron beams have a wavelike nature similar to light. Five years later, he wins the Nobel Prize in Physics for this work.
  • 1931: German scientists Max Knoll (1897–1969) and his pupil Ernst Ruska (1906–1988) build the first experimental TEM in Berlin.
  • 1933: Ernst Ruska builds the first electron microscope that is more powerful than an optical microscope.
  • 1935: Max Knoll builds the first crude SEM.
  • 1941: German electrical engineers Manfred Von Ardenne and Bodo von Borries patent an “electron scanning microscope” (SEM).
  • 1965: Cambridge Instrument Company produces the first commercial SEM in England.
  • 1981: Gerd Binnig (1947–) and Heinrich Rohrer (1933–) of IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory invent the STM and produce detailed images of atoms on the surface of a crystal of gold.
  • 1985: Binnig and his colleague Christoph Gerber produce the first atomic force microscope (AFM) by attaching a diamond to a piece of gold foil.
  • 1986: Binnig and Rohrer share the Nobel Prize in Physics with the original pioneer of electron microscopes, Ernst Ruska.
  • 1989: The first commercial AFM is produced by Sang-il Park (founder of Park Systems of Palo Alto, California).

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