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Boreel wrote a letter to the French king in the 1650s—decades after the instrument’s invention—detailing its origins. A tube holds the convex lens at the proper distance from the objective lens and blocks out stray light (except for the light source needed to illuminate the specimen). No early prototypes of Janssen microscopes have survived, but a museum in Middelburg has a microscope dating from 1595, bearing the Janssen name. There are three tubes, two of which are draw tubes that can slide into the third, which acts as an outer casing.

A Leyden jar is nothing more than a glass jar partially filled with water, with a conducting wire projecting from its cork. (It was invented in Leyden, the Netherlands, in 1745 by the Dutch physicist Pieter van Musschenbroek, who nearly electrocuted his best friend during the first successful test run. ) To test his theory about the nature of lightning, Franklin published a paper proposing an experiment with an elevated rod or wire to “draw down the electric fire”from a cloud, with the experimenter standing in the protection of an enclosure similar to a sentry box.

Like many scientists, he showed an early affinity for mechanics and mathematical problems. As a child he was enthralled by the construction of a new mill in the nearby town of Grantham. He studied the principles that governed the various gears, levers, and pulley wheels, and he built his own water mills and windmills. He even built a 4-foot water clock out of a wooden box in his attic room. As a young man, Newton attended Cambridge University, earning his undergraduate degree in science and math in 1665.

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