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Louis Pasteur’s compound microscope, Paris, France, 1857-1865

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), the French chemist and microbiologist, used microscopes like this compound microscope during his experiments on spontaneous generation. By 1864, Pasteur disproved this theory by experimenting with fermentation. He placed yeast water in a swan-necked flask that only allowed air to enter. The water remained clear. Only when the flask was open to dust and micro-organisms did fermentation occur. The microscope was made by Nachet et fils.

Object number:

A55114 Pt1

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Glossary: monocular microscope

Microscope with a single viewing eyepiece, as distinct from binocular or stereomicroscopes. It should be noted that monocular microscopes can be fitted with a binocular eyepiece to give pseudo-stereo views

Glossary: microscopy

The use of microscopes to study objects or samples. The three major types of microscopy are optical, electron and scanning probe microscopy.

Glossary: compound microscope

Microscope with multiple optical elements (lenses/mirrors). It has two microscopes in series, the first serving as the ocular lens (close to the eye) and the second serving as the objective lens (close to the object to be viewed).

Glossary: spontaneous generation

The supposed production of living organisms from non-living matter, a common belief until the 1800s.

Glossary: fermentation

A form of anaerobic respiration (respiration that does not need oxygen) occurring in certain micro-organisms, for example yeasts.