We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Phase Contrast Microscope?

By K.B. Schnurman
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A phase contrast microscope is a scientific instrument specifically designed to increase the contrast of live specimens under observation. The microscope depends on the different refractive qualities of objects to distinguish between transparent and colorless structures. Other microscopy methods depend on staining a specimen to highlight or define different cellular components. The process of staining usually kills the specimen, making the study of active cellular processes impossible. The phase contrast microscope eliminates the need to kill a specimen by harnessing the nature of light waves.

A light wave contains peaks and valleys at regular intervals. If the peaks and valleys of different waves line up, they are said to be in phase. When they are misaligned the waves are out of phase.

The phase contrast microscope uses two light sources: a lamp under the specimen, and a light that is either diffracted or reflected off the specimen. Light is passed through a transparent object, while it is reflected off a solid, but colorless object. When the light waves are brought together in the phase condenser, a lens above the specimen, they will either be in phase or out of phase. If the light waves are in phase, the object will appear bright. If they are out of phase, the object will be shaded or dark.

Phase contrast microscopy was first developed around 1930 by Fritz Zerinke. His invention was not initially well received. When the German war machine caught hold of it in 1941, it was finally manufactured.

After the war, the phase contrast microscope continued to be made and applied to new areas of study, such as medicine. The phase contrast microscope has been instrumental in outlining the processes involved in cell division and other active cellular processes. Zerinke was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1953 for his contribution to microscopy techniques.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.