Medical Definition of Microscopy

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Microscopy: The examination of minute objects by means of a microscope, an instrument which provides an enlarged image of an object not visible with the naked eye.

Aside from the usual microscopy, there are various special types of microscopy including, for example:

  • Electron microscopy -- Microscopy in which an electron beam replaces light to form the image.
  • Fluorescence microscopy -- Microscopy based on the fact that fluorescent materials emit visible light when they are irradiated with ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Immune electron microscopy -- Electron microscopy of biological specimens to which a specific antibody has been bound.
  • Immunofluorescence microscopy -- Microscopy done using antibodies labeled with a fluorescing substance and a fluorescence microscope to detect the binding of the antibody through the production of a characteristic visible light under UV light.
  • Nomarski microscopy -- An unusual type of microscopy requiring a special optical system (Nomarski optics) to do "differential interference contrast microscopy."
  • Time-lapse microscopy -- Microscopy in which the same object is photographed at regular intervals over time to, for example, observe a cell go through division.

The word "microscopy" comes from Greek roots: mikros, small + skopeo, to view = to view small (objects).

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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