The introduction of the electron microscope in the 1930's filled the bill. Co-invented by Germans, Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska in 1931, Ernst Ruska was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986 for his invention. (The other half of the Nobel Prize was divided between Heinrich Rohrer and Gerd Binnig for the STM.)
In this kind of microscope, electrons are speeded up in a vacuum until their wavelength is extremely short, only one hundred-thousandth that of white light. Beams of these fast-moving electrons are focused on a cell sample and are absorbed or scattered by the cell's parts so as to form an image on an electron-sensitive photographic plate.
Power of the Electron MicroscopeIf pushed to the limit, electron microscopes can make it possible to view objects as small as the diameter of an atom. Most electron microscopes used to study biological material can "see" down to about 10 angstroms--an incredible feat, for although this does not make atoms visible, it does allow researchers to distinguish individual molecules of biological importance. In effect, it can magnify objects up to 1 million times. Nevertheless, all electron microscopes suffer from a serious drawback. Since no living specimen can survive under their high vacuum, they cannot show the ever-changing movements that characterize a living cell.