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History of the Electron Microscope in Cell Biology

  1. Barry R Masters

Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021539



How to Cite

Masters, B. R. 2009. History of the Electron Microscope in Cell Biology. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2009


In the years following World War II there was an explosion in the biological sciences with the rapid emergence of cell biology, molecular biology and biophysics. These events were affected by the development and use of new technologies for cellular fractionation and imaging, specifically the electron microscope, which provided a resolution, that is, unobtainable with light microscopes. Electron microscopes made visible the fine structure of cells and their organelles, the structure of viruses. Now cryo-electron microscopy is emerging as a key tool to visualize and localize the proteins in an entire cell, the organization of actin filaments in the cytoskeleton, and molecular complexes such as nuclear pores.


  • transmission electron microscope;
  • scanning electron microscope;
  • cryo-electron microscopy;
  • cell ultrastructure;
  • structural biology