GCSE level School biology revision notes: Using microscopes in biology

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MICROSCOPY - the scientific uses of microscopes in biology

Light and electron microscopes - preparation of samples for investigation

e.g. preparing microscope slides, making sketches of cells and how to estimate the size of a cell and its features e.g. size of nucleus

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Some of these revision notes help on how to use a microscope, making up a side ready for study, how to make labelled drawings from your observations and learning how to calculate magnification,  advantage of electron microscopes over optical light microscope


 Sub-index for this section on microscopy - investigation using a microscope

(1) Microscopes - uses, history and development

(2) The design, function and use of an optical light microscope and slide preparation

(3) Examples of using a microscope and drawing your microscope slide observations - scale drawings

(4) Examples of numerical calculations in microscopy - magnification and magnifying power of a microscope

(5) The scale of things in biology and orders of magnitude - comparison of cells and other objects

(6) More on magnification and measuring the size of a cell using a graticule and stage micrometer

See also Introduction to plant and animal cell structure and function


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aqa gcse 9-1 biology: You should be able to: understand how microscopy techniques have developed over time, explain how electron microscopy has increased understanding of sub-cellular structures, and appreciate the differences in magnification and resolution that have both increased with technological development in microscopy. Know and understand that an electron microscope has much higher magnification and resolving power than a light microscope. This means that it can be used to study cells in much finer detail. This has enabled biologists to see and understand many more sub-cellular structures. You should appreciate the differences in magnification and resolution between a light microscope and an electron microscope. Be able to explain how electron microscopy has increased understanding of subcellular structures. Be able to use prefixes centi (10-2), milli (10-3), micro (10-6) and nano (10-9) (expressing answers in standard form) and carry out calculations involving magnification, real size and image size using the formula: magnification = size of image / size of real object . With light microscopes you can see individual cells and large subcellular structures like the nucleus. With electron microscopes, using a beam of electrons instead of a beam of light, you gain a much higher resolution seeing much smaller objects e.g. the structures of mitochondria, chloroplasts, ribosomes and plasmids.

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