Charles Oatley

Scanning Electron Microscope

Charles OatleyThe major activity in electrical engineering after the war, was the development of the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Although the principles of the scanning electron microscope had already been established in Germany in the 1930s, there was a widely held belief that this technique had insufficient scientific merit and no commercial future. It was only through the determination of Charles Oatley, appointed to a lectureship in 1945, that research in this field was established at Cambridge.

The first SEM

The first microscope (pictured on the left) was designed and built in the Department and it was operational in 1951.

The first break-through to commercial success occurred in 1958 when a fully engineered microscope was constructed in the Department and shipped to Canada, to fulfil an order from the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada. This instrument is now in the National Museum of Ottawa.