Theoretical mathematical physics established the possibility of an electron microscope long before the discovery of the electron. Much later, theoretical physics provided the incentive for developing an electron microscope. The realization of a working instrument had to await the maturation of a wide spectrum of new technologies. Recollections of the successes and heartbreaks of the early days of this struggle, at the University of Toronto and then at RCA, provide the background for some interesting thoughts on the importance of timing and chance in such developments. In the middle 1930s, technologies were emerging that made the transmission electron microscope possible. By contrast, electron microprobe analysis could not become practical until at least two decades later when the much more demanding technologies required had been developed.
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