Using A Microscope 101: Important Microscope Parts & Functions

the man using a microscope

Can you name all the different parts of a microscope? Knowing how to properly label microscope parts is important so you can communicate clearly and provide detailed instructions when teaching a class of young students. Here is everything you need to know about naming the parts of a microscope.

Using A Microscope 101: Parts Of A Microscope

A microscope is used to magnify small objects. Microscopes are often used in scientific or educational settings to observe objects and living organisms that wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye. It is important to learn about the different parts of a microscope to understand how these devices work.

Why Is Knowing About Microscope Parts Important?

one microscope

Learning about microscope parts provides you with a frame of references. You can use the correct terms to communicate with other scientists or students.

This is crucial when giving instructions. If you are an instructor, you should take the time to teach students about the different parts of a microscope so you can give detailed instructions on how to prepare a microscope and use it safely.

Knowing the correct terms for the different parts of a microscope will also help you troubleshoot problems. You will be able to look up information on a specific part you are encountering issues and figure out how to rectify the issue.

The Basic Components Of A Microscope

microscope diagram

Three microscope parts make up the frame of the device.


The base is the large piece that supports the microscope. You need to keep your microscope steady to get a clear image of what you want to magnify. This is why the base is an important part.

The size of the base depends on how heavy the microscope is. If you need to carry a microscope, make sure you place one hand under the base to support the weight of the device.


This is the C-shaped section that connects the base of the microscope to the controls and tube. You can typically adjust the angle of the arm to use the microscope more comfortably.

The arm is the first part that young students should learn about. This is the part you would use to safely pick up and transport the microscope. Teach students that they should always grab the arm of the microscope if they need to change the position of the device.

When carrying a microscope, you should hold the device by the arm and have one hand under the base to support its weight.

If you are using a compound microscope, the base, arm, and stage of the device won’t be separate elements. However, these different parts are easily identifiable on most small microscopes with low magnification settings.


This is a large part at the top of the microscope. The tube is connected to the arm of the microscope.

You will find the turret or nosepiece with the magnifying lenses at the bottom of the tube. However, you don’t directly look down the tube since an eyepiece is mounted on top of the tube.

The tube of a microscope can’t be adjusted. Make sure you teach the name of this part to young students, so they know not to grab a microscope by its tube.

Some microscopes have two tubes and two eyepieces. Most models only have one tube and eyepiece.

How To Magnify An Object

Eight different microscope parts come into play when you use a microscope to magnify an object.


The stage is the small surface located under the turret or nosepiece of the microscope. This is where you need to place the object you want to magnify.

The stage is equipped with a couple of metal clips that will secure the object you need to magnify to the microscope. You would typically prepare the object or living organism you want to magnify by placing it on a microscope slide and use the stage clips to secure the slide to the stage.

There is a hole called the aperture in the center of the stage. Light comes through the aperture and illuminates the object. You need to make sure the object you want to magnify is aligned with the aperture when attaching it to the stage.

Mirror Or Illuminator

You can’t use a microscope without a light source. The mirror or illuminator is located under the stage and illuminates the object or living organism you want to magnify.

If your microscope is equipped with a mirror, you will need to adjust the mirror to reflect sunlight. Most microscopes are equipped with an illuminator that you simply switch on and off.

You will find a 110v bulb inside of the illuminator. Some microscopes have an iris diaphragm attached to the illuminator that can be used to control how much light comes out.

Turret Or Nosepiece

This is a rotating circle attached under the tube of the microscope. There are different objective lenses attached to the turret of the nosepiece.

The purpose of the turret or nosepiece is to support the different objective lenses and let you select the right one. Microscopes have at least two lenses attached to the turret or nosepiece but can have a lot more.


The eyepiece is the part mounted on top of the tube. This is where you look into the microscope. The eyepiece usually has a lens with a 10x or 15x magnification power. You can calculate the magnification of a microscope by multiplying the eyepiece lens magnification power by the magnification power of the objective lens you are using.

Stereo microscopes have two eyepieces to create a three-dimensional image of the object. If you are an instructor, you probably won’t be working with stereo microscopes but showing images of these devices to your students could be an interesting way to introduce three-dimensional images and to show them there are different types of microscopes with more features.


You will find the controls on one side of the arm. Most microscopes use dials or knobs to let you adjust the magnification.

The controls work by bringing the stage closer or further away from the objective lens you have selected. You will usually have a coarse control to make broad adjustments and a fine control for more precise adjustments.

Some microscopes have an additional control mounted on the eyepiece. This is a diopter control to adjust the magnification of the lens you look into.

Some microscopes have an additional control attached to the base so that you can adjust the brightness of the illuminator.

Rack stop

The rack stop is a safety feature that prevents you from bringing the stage too close to the objective lens and accidentally damaging it. The rack stop is a small screw that is mounted next to the stage.

You shouldn’t have to adjust the rack stop of your microscope. The default setting will prevent you from getting the stage too close to the objective lenses.

If you are teaching young students how to use a microscope, make sure they know what the rack stop is and understand why they shouldn’t touch it. It is possible to loosen this screw and get the stage closer to the objective lenses, which could result in some damages to the lenses.

Objective Lenses

These lenses are attached to the turret or nosepiece and hang directly above the stage. Microscopes can have two, three, four, or five lenses depending on their magnifying power.

The magnification power of a lens typically ranges from 4x to 100x depending on how performing the microscope is.

The objective lenses are the most important and most fragile microscope parts. They are protected by small tubes, but students should be aware of how fragile the lenses are.

Condenser lens

Not all microscopes have a condenser lens. The purpose of the condenser lens is to focus the light on the object you want to magnify.

A condenser lens is often used with high magnifications since it gives a sharper image of the object. You can upgrade your microscope by adding a condenser lens, but this is something you might not need if your microscope only has low magnification settings.

The condenser lens is mounted on the stage and will concentrate light on the object.

How To Teach Students About Microscope Parts

children using a microscope

There are different ways to help students remember the different parts of a microscope. Here are a few ideas:

  • Bring a microscope to class and point to the different parts.
  • Have the students label a diagram of a microscope.
  • During activities that involve microscopes, make sure you ask each student to name a few parts.
  • Ask students to explain how they would prepare a slide or transport a microscope. Make sure they use the correct names for the different parts they mention.
  • Ask students to name the parts that come into play when magnifying an object.
  • Ask students what the purpose of a specific part is.
  • Have students try out different lenses and calculate the magnification power for each one.

Knowing the names of the different parts of a microscope is important because it helps you communicate clearly with students or colleagues. Remembering the different parts is easy if you keep a labeled diagram with you and make sure you always use the proper terms when referring to the different parts of a microscope.

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