Confocal Microscopes

Robert H. Webb

Confocal microscopy is one of those wonderful concepts that seem obvious when pointed out. It's not surprising that we can recognize the idea in many of the approaches to optical instrumentation that we all invent and use. So why has it suddenly appeared in our midst? I think the answer is, in part, that the laser and modern scanning techniques have enabled it. But the rest of the answer is that confocal microscopy isn't new: Minsky was issued a patent on the confocal microscope in 1957, and one implementation even uses incandescent light and spinning (Nipkow) disks.

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