Anton van Leeuwenhoek

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Related to Anton van Leeuwenhoek: Theodor Schwann

Leeuwenhoek, Anton Van


Born Oct. 24, 1632, in Delft; died there Aug. 26, 1723. Dutch naturalist; founder of scientific microscopy. Member of the Royal Society of London (1680).

Leeuwenhoek earned his living in textile manufacture and haberdashery. He became expert in grinding optical lenses, an activity that filled his spare time. The lenses he made had a magnifying power of 150–300 times. These he inserted in metal holders, with a needle attached to set and fix the object of observation. With the aid of such “microscopes,” Leeuwenhoek became the first to observe and sketch spermatozoa (1677), bacteria (1683), erythrocytes, protozoans, individual plant and animal cells, ova, embryos, muscle tissue, and many other parts and organs of more than 200 species of plants and animals. He was the first to describe parthenogenesis in aphids (1695–1700). Leeuwenhoek was an advocate of preformism, the belief that a fully formed embryo is already contained in the “animalcule,” or spermatozoon. He rejected the possibility of spontaneous generation. Leeuwenhoek described his observations in letters (300 in all), which he sent mainly to the Royal Society of London.


Opera omnia. Leiden, 1715–22.
Alle de brieven, vols. 1–5. Amsterdam, 1939–57.


Takzhin, N. V. Levenguk, ego zhizn’i deiatel’nost’. (Po ego pis’mam). Leningrad, 1946.
Schierbeek, A. Measuring the Invisible World: The Life and Works of A. van Leeuwenhoek London-New York, 1959.


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