Lensless Microscope – How to make a Microscope Without a Lens

Nearly everyone has heard of the pin-hole camera, but the fact that the same principle can be used to make a microscope, having a magnifying power of 8 diameters (64 times) will perhaps be new to some readers.
To make this lensless microscope, procure a wooden spool, A (a short spool, say 1/2 or 3/4 in. long, produces a higher magnifying power), and enlarge the bore a little at one end.
Then blacken the inside with india ink and allow to dry.
From a piece of thin transparent celluloid or mica, cut out a small disk, B, and fasten to the end having the enlarged bore, by means of brads.
On the other end glue a piece of thin black cardboard, C, and at the center, D, make a small hole with the point of a fine needle.
It is very important that the hole D should be very small, otherwise the image will be blurred.

Detail of Lensless Microscope

To use this microscope, place a small object on the transparent disk, which may be moistened to make the object adhere, and look through the hole D.
It is necessary to have a strong light to get good results and, as in all microscopes of any power, the object should be of a transparent nature.

The principle on which this instrument works is illustrated in Fig. 2. The apparent diameter of an object is inversely proportional to its distance from the eye, i. e., if the distance is reduced to one-half, the diameter will appear twice as large; if the distance is reduced to one-third, the diameter will appear three times as large, and so on.
As the nearest distance at which the average person can see an object clearly is about 6 in., it follows that the diameter of an object 3/4 in. from the eye would appear 8 times the normal size.
The object would then be magnified 8 diameters, or 64 times. (The area would appear 64 times as large.) But an object 3/4-in. from the eye appears so blurred that none of the details are discernible, and it is for this reason that the pin-hole is employed.
Viewed through this microscope, a fly’s wing appears as large as a person’s hand, held at arm’s length, and has the general appearance shown in Fig. 3.
The mother of vinegar examined in the same way is seen to be swarming with a mass of wriggling little worms, and may possibly cause the observer to abstain from all salads forever after. An innocent-looking drop of water, in which hay has been soaking for several days, reveals hundreds of little infusoria, darting across the field in every direction. These and hundreds of other interesting objects may be observed in this little instrument, which costs little or nothing to make.

Excerpt from the book: