Imagine a flannel robe against your skin, so soft that you can hardly feel its touch. Tightly wrapped, you are at ease, surrounded by comfort and warmth. The softness your robe provides is born of the cotton fibers making up the flannel fabric. Cotton fibers are flexible, convoluted strands which, when woven together, create a material perfectly suited for wrapping around the body. While you may be able to feel the effects of the cotton fibers in your flannel robe, they are impossible to see with the naked eye, and their coiled shape is visible only under a microscope.

Microscopy is an irreplaceable tool in the identification of textile fibers. With a powerful lens, it is possible to observe the characteristics of individual textiles. While the microscope has been around for some time, students still find the process of seeing the textile world up close fascinating. Dating back to the seventeenth century, the microscope has evolved to become an important tool in scientific observation. Cornelis Drebbel, Zacharias Janssen, Galileo Galilei, and Robert Hooke are some of the scientists credited with the invention and development of microscopes. Robert Hooke's book, Micrographia, published in 1665, depicted his microscopic observations and was one of the best sellers of that time. However, the adaptation of microscopy was greatly impacted by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723), a Dutch fabric merchant. Referred to as “the Father of Microbiology,” he was neither a biologist ...

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