Microscopes on display at SFO Museum

Flying lifts you above it all, offering a chance to take in the big picture from the sky.

But travelers who touch down at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) now have an opportunity to get down to specifics with a new exhibition exploring the history of microscopes.

Simple microscope with case 1673–1748; Courtesy SFO Museum

“From mid-seventeenth-century simple microscopes to the modern compound optical devices by German makers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these are the instruments that revealed the long-held secrets of the natural world—the existence of microorganisms, the structure of biological cells, and the composition and operation of a variety of previously unseen life forms. Nearly 350 years after Robert Hooke introduced a ‘newly visible world,’ we continue to rely on the microscope in our eternal quest to better understand the world we inhabit and the challenges posed by that which remains invisible to the unaided eye.”

[From the exhibition release]

If you can’t make it to the airport, you can view a selection of microscopes and other objects from the exhibition online.

Detail of specimen slides with seeds c. 1820; courtesy SFO Museum

A World Examined: Microscopes from the Age of Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century is on display pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby, at San Francisco International Airport through June 24, 2012.