Shinya Inoué has died

Another great scientist is gone. Inoué wrote my Bible that I relied on greatly in the 80s and 90s, Video Microscopy: The Fundamentals (which now costs $129? Wow), a very thorough overview of television and closed-circuit TV, as well as microscope optics. It’s now rather dated — it’s quaint to imagine there was a time we relied on RS-170 and NTSC to do video microscopy, and the extensive discussion of tape formats and antique gadgetry isn’t of much use any more, unless you’re planning to pick up an OMDR on eBay. Once upon a time, though, it was an indispensable guide to the thicket of rapidly emerging imaging technologies.

I never met Inoué, but I’d also heard he was a great teacher, and I can believe it. The book is dense but extremely well written and thorough. I’ve still got my copy in an honored position on my bookshelf, even if I probably haven’t cracked it open in 10 or 20 years. But in its time…I even taught a course a couple of times that was built around it as a reference text. It would still be useful if I were splicing together antique devices now and then for use in the lab.


  1. mikehuben says

    I met him roughly 40 years ago, at a New York Microscopical Society meeting where he presented on high-extinction polarized light microscopy. He was really interesting and impressive. I remember traveling back to Cold Spring Harbor with him (I can’t remember where I went from there.) He told me of his childhood in wartime Japan and how they feared developing night blindness from a diet of nothing but millet.

  2. says

    About 6 years ago my boss bought what I consider the worst microscope in the world for cell counts. It was a digital microscope with an LCD screen. Just an absolute piece of garbage. You start moving the stand around to find the corner of the hemocytometer and the whole thing turned into a blurry mess for whole seconds. It took me three years a bit of sabotage to get them to finally spring for a simple stereo microscope with a proper oil immersion lens.

    Never underestimate the value of a good scope.

  3. mikehuben says

    Ah, now I remember: I went with him to Wood’s Hole, not Cold Spring Harbor. I took a bus from there to Boston. It must have been around 1982.

  4. mikehuben says

    Ray @ 2:

    Yes, it’s shocking how little people know about microscopy. The New York Microscopical Society used to have terrific classes about microscopy taught by experts. I attended 3 or 4 of them.

    The resolution of a microscope is critical, and magnification beyond what can be resolved is called empty magnification. I have a friend here in Ecuador who works with mosquito systematics. He has a very expensive Zeiss photomicroscope that has empty resolution beyond 30x. When I brought him my 80 year old Leitz stereomicroscope, he saw structures at 100x that he had never seen before, such as the pulvilli (pads on the foot.)

    Most people also don’t know why or how oil immersion works. And usually they don’t understand that you need to apply oil to the condenser also.

  5. says

    @mikehuben My microbiology professor in college was a fanatic for microscope maintenance. Her class was like the science equivalent of boot camp. All we had were stereoscopes that were made in the 70s, but they were really good scopes. She drilled every aspect of care use and maintenance into our heads. It was almost like that scene in Full Metal Jacket.

    “This is my microscope, there are many like it but this one is mine”. She may not have been the most personable instructor, and it was probably the toughest class I ever took, but I know how to use a microscope better than most of my co-workers. The only ones who are as good as me are the ones who studied under that exact same professor. It was rough but I now appreciate the skills.

  6. blf says

    Someplace — I’m not quite sure where it is at the moment (long story) — I’ve an ancient binocular low-magnification microscope (something like the before-mentioned 30x max) with excellent resolution. Not oil immersion. It was my dad’s, who used it in industrial settings for assorted reasons; e.g., sampling parts / products, studying defects / failures / contamination, and so on. The thing weights a metric feckton, but is superb for the sort of uses dad put it to, and the amateur uses I’ve put it to.

  7. says

    My first personal scope was a Gilbert from the late 60s. It was about that power. It was good enough to resolve paramecium in the local ditch water. I still remember the first time I saw those little critters scurrying around. It was also about the same time the movie “Inner Space” came out, so I was a bit fixated on microbiology at the time.