A scanning probe microscope includes a scanning probe tip and an electrostatic surface actuator operatively coupled to the scanning probe tip. The electrostatic surface actuator includes a movable member that has a first surface with a first plurality of electrodes disposed on the first surface and a stationary member that has a second surface with a second plurality of electrodes disposed on the second surface. The first and second surfaces are disposed in a confronting relationship The movable and stationary members are resiliently coupled so that the movable member is capable of being displaced with respect to the stationary member. The first and second pluralities of electrodes are configured to generate electrostatic forces in response to voltages applied. The electrostatic forces laterally displace the movable member in the direction generally parallel to the first and second surfaces. The scanning probe tip is controllably positioned by displacement of the movable member.