What is a Dissecting Microscope?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A dissecting microscope is a microscope of a design which facilitates the magnification and examination of three dimensional objects, rather than samples prepared on slides. As the name implies, dissecting microscopes are commonly used in the dissection of specimens, but they have a range of other functions as well. Many scientific supply companies sell this style of microscope at varying levels of quality, and it is also possible to order them directly from manufacturers.

A dissecting microscope facilitates the magnification and examination of three dimensional objects, rather than samples prepared on slides.
A dissecting microscope facilitates the magnification and examination of three dimensional objects, rather than samples prepared on slides.

This design is sometimes referred to as the stereoscope, because of the way in which the lenses operate. Unlike a compound microscope, which provides a very high level of magnification for two dimensional objects, a dissecting microscope has two lens arrays which are aligned to create a stereoscopic or three dimensional image. This allows the user to clearly visualize a three dimensional object on the stage of the microscope.

The stage of a dissecting microscope is typically large, and it may have a depression for securing specimens. The magnification may be fixed or zoom in style, and people typically cannot reach a very high level of magnification with this type of microscope. Lighting is provided primarily through reflected light which bounces off the object, rather than transmitted light coming from beneath the stage.

There are two eyepieces on a dissecting microscope, which connect to the two lens arrays. Some models may have a third lens for the purpose of taking video or photographs. This can also be used to create projections which can be used for demonstrations in the classroom. In a science lab, for example, the teacher might show students how to perform a dissection by demonstrating one on a stereoscope which has a video feed hooked up to a projector so that students can clearly see the process.

In addition to being used for dissection, these microscopes can also be used to examine archaeological artifacts, geological samples, and a wide variety of other objects. In all cases, the microscope creates some magnification so that people can see the object in detail, without going into depth. For higher levels of magnification, a sample from the object will need to be prepared on a slide for viewing in a compound microscope or another piece of scientific equipment.

As with all microscopes, the quality of this style can vary widely, depending on the components, especially the lenses. People can pay a little or a lot for a dissecting microscope, depending on their personal tastes, but they should be aware that individuals who buy cheap microscopes usually get what they pay for.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I find that some of these facts are interesting but the only problem is that they didn't put how much magnification the dissecting microscope can see.


@ Framemaker- You can look into a naturescope Nikon microscope. You can find them for about $250-$300 new, and they are great for a basic field microscope. They are water resistant, shockproof, 20x magnification, and great Nikon optics. The biggest downside is there is no lighting included. The microscope does fold down into a compact microscope, and it should do the trick. I hope this helps.


I need to buy a dissecting microscope, but I don't know what microscopes offer the best bang for the buck. Does anyone have any recommendations for a stereo dissecting microscope? I need something that I can use in the field so it needs to be somewhat portable, and I also want to keep the price reasonable since I will be taking it into the field. I will only be making an initial analysis with it.


I never realized that there was a difference between a dissecting microscope and a compound microscope. I always just assumed a dissecting microscope was a regular microscope with two eyepieces. Now I know that the microscopes I see on all of the crime shows on television are stereoscopic dissecting microscopes. I learn something new every day. Thanks wiseGEEK!

Post your comments
Forgot password?