Anton van Leeuwenhoek

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The image won't be very clear or bright, but neither were the first images seen by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch scientist and one of the first pioneers of microscopy.
Even someone who missed the earliest fiddling with magnifying lenses has had 330 years to catch up on volume 14 of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, wherein merchant microscopist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek reported "to my great surprise" that watered-down scrapings from his teeth revealed "very many small living Animals, which moved themselves very extravagantly."
MICROSCOPY has advanced further in the past 10 years than it had in all the previous 300 years, since Antonie van Leeuwenhoek invented the compound optical microscope.
The father of microscopy, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, wrote about them some 300 years ago.