The Stereoscopic Dissecting Microscope
Due to the small working distance of the compound microscope, large or thick specimens are difficult to view. Also, a compound microscope requires that the light passes through the material being viewed. If your material of interest is thick, that won't work. A dissecting (stereoscopic) microscope provides a much greater working distance and is able to accommodate large specimens such as insects, fungi, algae, or plants. With its larger working distance, there is room to move specimens around on the stage.
You will not be using dissecting microscopes this semester, but I thought that you should have at least heard about them. Just read through this to see what they are like and view the image.
Due to the thickness of specimens observed with the dissecting microscope, light will not transmit through the specimen. Therefore, dissecting microscopes project light onto the specimen from above. You don't shine a light through it, you shine a light on it. The light is then reflected into the microscope and you can see it.
The dissecting microscopes are typically binocular scopes. Each of the two oculars views the specimen at a different angle, providing a three-dimensional image with a large depth of field. Compound microscopes, in comparison, provide primarily a two-dimensional image. Advantages of a dissecting microscope are often offset by lower magnification and resolution than a compound microscope.
Click here to view a labeled image of a dissecting microscope.
© 2006 STCC Foundation Press, content by Dawn A. Tamarkin, Ph.D.
Last changed: January 21, 2007