Happy 176th birthday, Ernst!

Happy 176th birthday, Ernst!
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By Jim McIlvain

A group of MBL researchers gathered recently to celebrate the birthday of Ernst Abbe (1840 – 1905), the physicist credited with discovering the resolution limit of the light microscope. Abbe-birthday-cake-webAbbe published the formula (known as Abbe’s diffraction limit, and inscribed here on the birthday cake) in 1873, while he was research director at Zeiss Optical Works in Jena, Germany. This new understanding of optical theory, along with many of his other inventions, heralded the modern era of microscopy.

Today, the MBL continues its long tradition of exploration at the forefront of microscopy. Ongoing research seeks to circumvent Abbe’s resolution limit by a combination of optical and computational manipulation in image space. In 2014, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry recognized “super-resolution” imaging technologies that get around Abbe’s resolution limit.

Photo caption: MBL researchers celebrating Abbe’s birthday are, from left, Jim McIlvain, Carl Zeiss Microscopy senior application specialist at MBL; Jessica Mark Welch, associate research scientist; Rudolf Oldenbourg, senior scientist; Kasa Hammar, microscopy technician (seated); Shane Jinson, research assistant; Eric Edsinger, research fellow; Louie Kerr, director, Microscopy & Research Services. Behind the camera: Shalin Mehta, postdoctoral fellow.