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Finding, defining and breaking the diffraction barrier in microscopy – a historical perspective

Marcel A Lauterbach

Author Affiliations

Wavefront Engineering Microscopy Group, Neurophysiology and New Microscopies Laboratory, CNRS UMR8154, INSERM S603, University Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France

Optical Nanoscopy 2012, 1:8  doi:10.1186/2192-2853-1-8

Published: 1 November 2012


Diffraction plays a crucial role in microscopy as it prevents the recording of arbitrarily sharp images with conventional light microscopes. Many names are connected with the notion of diffraction and the definition of resolution. An overview over the contributions of the different scientists to the recognition and definition of the diffraction barrier in the past centuries is given and the recent developments that led to breaking this barrier are portrayed.

History; Diffraction limit; Diffraction barrier; Abbe formula; Resolution; High-resolution microscopy; Fluorescence; STED; PALM; STORM