An Overview of Basic Terms Used in Electron Microscopy


G. Stolyarov II

See Mr. Stolyarov's Index of Selected Writings, Originally Published on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices.
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it received over 370 page views. To preserve a record of my writings following the shutdown of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, I have given this article a permanent presence on this page.

~ G. Stolyarov II, July 28, 2014

The electron microscope is a powerful instrument for analyzing extremely small biological structures. An electron microscope would be able to detect cell structures and organelles such as mitochondria, ribosomes, Golgi apparatuses, endoplasmic reticulums, and peroxisomes, whereas conventional compound microscopes cannot. In order to effectively employ an electronic microscope, however, one must first be familiar with basic terminology, procedures, and tools of electron microscopy. Here is a convenient list of some essential concepts.

Fixation: Preserving tissues permanently in as life-like a state as possible. Aldehydes and alcohols are often applied to tissues for this purpose.

Source: The Internet Pathology Laboratory.

Staining with heavy metals: Electromagnets, which are the lenses used in transmission electron microscope, are treated with this technique, through which metal atoms attach at certain places in the cells and enable the study of the cells' internal ultrastructure. Staining with heavy metals is also used to display contrasts between various parts of cell.

Electromagnetic lenses: Lenses used in transmission electron microscopes (TEMs) to focus and magnify sections of preserved cells.

Vacuum: The absence of air. All electron microscope samples have to be studied in a vacuum, because air would scatter the electrons and render the device ineffective. Thus, no currently living tissue can be studied in an electron microscope.


Electron micrographs: Images produced by electron microscopes.

Fluorescent screen: When the electrons hit it, the fluorescent screentransforms the electron image into a visible image. The image on the fluorescent screen can then be magnified or saved.


Ultramicrotome: Equipment that enables the technician to cut semi-thin (1 micrometer) and ultra-thin (96 nanometer) sections of tissue which are stained then examined with a transmission electron microscope (TEM).


Copper grids: Supports for the mounting of specimens, especially common in transmission electron microscopes (TEMs).


Boat on diamond or glass knife:Knives of diamond that can cut ultra-thin slices of tissue for examination under an electron microscope.


Embedding: A procedure that supports the tissue one wishes to analyze for sectioning, which produces thin slices for mounting, in a resin such as araldite.


Stereoscopic microscope: Observation of a highly three-dimensional material merits use of a stereoscopic microscope, which is better adjusted to relating the depth of 3D objects. Moreover, non-translucent objects are more suited for analysis with a stereoscopic microscope, since its light source is directed down onto as well as up through an object.

The above terms are among the first ideas that new practitioners of electron microscopy need to learn. Hopefully, this convenient list will aid them on their quest to master and apply these immensely informative and useful instruments.

Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. 

In December 2013, Mr. Stolyarov published Death is Wrong, an ambitious children’s book on life extension illustrated by his wife Wendy. Death is Wrong can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Mr. Stolyarov has contributed articles to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), The Wave Chronicle, Le Quebecois Libre, Brighter Brains Institute, Immortal Life, Enter Stage RightRebirth of Reason, The Liberal Institute, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

In an effort to assist the spread of rational ideas, Mr. Stolyarov published his articles on Associated Content (subsequently the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices) from 2007 until Yahoo! closed this venue in 2014. Mr. Stolyarov held the highest Clout Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and was one of its Page View Millionaires, with over 3,175,000 views. Mr. Stolyarov’s selected writings from that era have been preserved on this page.

Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE), and Associate in Insurance Accounting and Finance (AIAF).

Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a philosophical treatise, A Rational Cosmology,  a play, Implied Consent, and a free self-help treatise, The Best Self-Help is Free. You can watch his YouTube Videos.Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.