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The design of a low‐temperature scanning tunneling microscope is described. The microscope can be operated in ultrahigh vacuum in the temperature range between 15 and 300 K. The main features are a scanner which is based on the Besocke ‘‘beetle’’ design principle combined with a spring suspension of the microscope and complete surrounding of the whole microscope by a 4 K radiation shield. The microscope can be extended to work as a force microscope using the optical lever detection technique for force measurement. It is demonstrated that this comparatively small and reliable setup is well suited to study the adsorption of single atoms and molecules at low temperatures. Moreover, examples of lateral and vertical manipulation of atoms and molecules are shown to demonstrate the performance of the system. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.