The construction of high-magnification homemade lenses for a simple microscope

Flores, D. P. and T. C. Marzullo
Advances in Physiological Education
45: 134-144
American Physiological Society

Full title

The construction of high-magnification homemade lenses for a simple microscope: an easy “DIY” tool for biological and interdisciplinary education


The rise of microscopy in the seventeenth century allowed scientists to discover a new world of microorganisms and achieve great physiological advances. One of the first microscopes of the epoch was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s microscope, a deceptively simple device that contains a single ball lens housed in a metal plate allowing the observation of samples at up to  250 magnification. Such magnification was much greater than that achieved by rudimentary compound microscopes of the era, allowing for the discovery of microscopic, single-celled life, an achievement that marked the study of biology up to the nineteenth century. Since Leeuwenhoek’s design uses a single ball lens, it is possible to fabricate variations for educational activities in physics and biology university and high school classrooms. A fundamental problem, however, with home-built microscopes is that it is difficult to work with glass. We developed a simple protocol to make ball lenses of glass and gelatin with high magnification that can be done in a university/high school classroom, and we designed an optimized support for focusing and taking photographs with a smartphone. The protocol details a simple, easily accessible, low-cost, and effective tool for the observation of microscopic samples, possible to perform anywhere without the need for a laboratory or complex tools. Our protocol has been implemented in classrooms in Chile to a favorable reception.