It was soon established that using white light, one cannot resolve objects that are situated closer than half the wavelength of the light. As white light has a wavelength of 550 nm, no two objects situated 275 nm or lesser apart can be resolved. The solution was to use light of a shorter wavelength for illumination, and Richard Zsigmondy was the first to actually do it, creating the first ever Ultramicroscope. This achievement fetched him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1925.
The next two Nobel Prize winning efforts for improved microscopes were for the Phase Contrast microscope and the Electron microscope, which were discovered in 1932 and 1931 respectively. The 1953 Nobel Prize in Physics was given to Frits Zernike, who invented the phase contrast microscope. Using phase contrast, one could study even colorless transparent objects.
The 1985 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Ernst Ruska, co-inventor of the electron microscope, which went a step ahead of the original ultramicroscope and used electrons as a source of light, enabling atomic-scale resolutions and magnification up to 1,000,000X.
Indeed, one can view in three dimensions, using the scanning electron microscope, sub-cellular ultra-structures in tremendous detail. The inventors of the scanning electron tunneling microscope, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer were the recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physics in the subsequent year, 1986. The image beside shows a scanning electron micrograph of human red and white blood cells.
Modern microscopes like the laser scanning confocal microscope, scanning probe microscope and the atomic force microscope represent the pinnacle of microscopy made possible by vast advances in optics, technology and computing. These marvels are technologically superior to any other in the entire history of the microscope.