Science and scientific progress was a big deal in the 19th century – just look at all the new discoveries and inventions of the period! The steam engine, oxygen (yes, the element), Darwin's theory of evolution…and the list goes on. But with all this rapid progress and discovery, a lot of people were left feeling discombobulated and disoriented. So while some people in Middlemarch (like Lydgate) are chomping at the bit, wanting progress to go forward more rapidly, others (like the farm laborers who don't trust the new railway) are ready to fight progress tooth and nail.
The frequent references to microscopes and telescopes in Middlemarch underline the importance of balancing a distant, critical perspective with a subjective, case-by-case view of the world.
The many references to microscopes and telescopes in Middlemarch parallel the frequent toggling back and forth between universal trends and individual experience.