In recent years there has been an increasing focus on the role of instruments in the study of nature, both by historians and by philosophers of science, and even by a few art historians who are interested by the images produced by these devices.
My own approach is that of the historian of science with an interest in the philosophical implications. To the instrument historian, science is applied technology, put to the task of understanding nature by revealing the kinds of beings of which she is ultimately composed.
Scientific instruments have become indispensable in collecting and ‘dissecting’ natural phenomena from the seventeenth century when the techniques were developed that are at the roots of modern western technology-orientated science. At the most general level, these instruments made visible that which could not be seen by the unaided senses: Galileo Galilei's surface of the moon as seen through his primitive telescope, or Robert Hooke's compound eye of the fly as seen through his microscope, and in more recent times, C. T. R. Wilson's particle tracks in the cloud chamber.
None of the images produced by these devices was, of course, strictly neutral, in the sense that in their making a complex relationship existed between the observer and the observed.