Zernike, Frits

Zernike, Frits,

1888–1966, Dutch physicist, Ph.D. Univ. of Amsterdam, 1915. He was on the faculty at the Univ. of Groningen from 1915 until his retirement in 1958. Zernike received the 1953 Nobel Prize in Physics for demonstrating the phase-contrast method and inventing the phase-contrast microscopemicroscope,
optical instrument used to increase the apparent size of an object. Simple Microscopes

A magnifying glass, an ordinary double convex lens having a short focal length, is a simple microscope. The reading lens and hand lens are instruments of this type.
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. The new technology offered improvements over the conventional optical microscope by transforming effects due to changes in the optical path, which the eye cannot detect, into changes in light intensity, which the eye can detect. The phase-contrast microscope allowed scientists to study the internal structure of living cells by eliminating the need to stain and thereby kill the cells.

Zernike, Frits


Born July 16, 1888, in Amsterdam; died Mar. 10, 1966, in Groningen. Dutch physicist. Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (1946).

After graduating from the University of Amsterdam, Zernike received the degree of doctor of science from the university in 1915. He joined the staff of the University of Groningen in 1913 and served as a full professor from 1920 to 1958. Zernike’s principal works deal with such areas as optics and mathematical statistics. He made contributions to the theory of optical instruments, particularly the telescope and microscope. He discovered the phase-contrast principle in 1935 and subsequently built the first phase-contrast microscope. For his invention of the phase-contrast microscope, Zernike received a Nobel Prize in 1953.


“Das Phasenkontrastverfahren bei der mikroskopischen Beobachtung.” Zeitschrift für technische Physik, 1935, year 16, no. 11.
“Phase Contrast, a New Method for the Microscopic Observation of Transparent Objects.” Physica, 1942, vol. 9, nos. 7 and 10.
“Wie ich den Phasenkontrast entdeckte.” Physikalische Blätter, 1955, year 11, issue 4.
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