Erwin W. Mueller

National Medal of Science

Engineering

For his invention of the field-emission microscope, the field-ion microscope, and the atom-probe microscope, which helped to resolve the atomic structures of solids.

For his invention of the field-emission microscope, the field-ion microscope, and the atom-probe microscope, which helped to resolve the atomic structures of solids.

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Birth
January 13, 1911
Age Awarded
65
Country of Birth
Germany
Key Contributions
Invented Field Emission Electron Microscope (Feem)
Awarded by
Gerald R. Ford
Education
Technical University of Berlin
Areas of Impact
Communication & Information
Affiliations
Pennsylvania State University
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Erwin W. Mueller was the first man to see an atom, thanks to the specialized microscope he developed. He invented the field ion microscope in 1955 after a year of tinkering with the design.

“It was a sticky day in August that I became the first person to see an atom,” he said of his research. “On that day, the regular array of atoms and a crystal lattice became clearly visible through the field ion microscope which I had developed.”

Years earlier in 1950, he developed a field electron microscope which allowed him to produce  images of extremely small molecules — some as small 1-25,000,000th of an inch in diameter.

He also invented another device — an atom probe — which could  zero in on a single atom and allowed him to identify elements by atomic weight.

By Christine Ayala

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