Anton van Leeuwenhoek
Overview
 
Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek (in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 also Anthonie, Antoni, or Theunis, in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, Antony or Anton; ˈleɪvənhʊk, ˈleːʋənˌhuːk; October 24, 1632 – August 26, 1723) was a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 tradesman and scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

 from Delft
Delft
Delft is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland , the Netherlands. It is located between Rotterdam and The Hague....

, Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. He is commonly known as "the Father of Microbiology
Fathers of scientific fields
Those known as the father, mother, or considered the founder of a scientific field are the scientists who have made important contributions to that field...

", and considered to be the first microbiologist
Microbiologist
A microbiologist is a scientist who works in the field of microbiology. Microbiologists study organisms called microbes. Microbes can take the form of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protists...

. He is best known for his work on the improvement of the microscope
Microscope
A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy...

 and for his contributions towards the establishment of microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

. Using his handcrafted microscopes, he was the first to observe and describe single celled organisms, which he originally referred to as animalcules, and which we now refer to as micro-organisms. He was also the first to record microscopic observations of muscle
Muscle
Muscle is a contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to...

 fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa
Spermatozoon
A spermatozoon is a motile sperm cell, or moving form of the haploid cell that is the male gamete. A spermatozoon joins an ovum to form a zygote...

 and blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 flow in capillaries
Capillary
Capillaries are the smallest of a body's blood vessels and are parts of the microcirculation. They are only 1 cell thick. These microvessels, measuring 5-10 μm in diameter, connect arterioles and venules, and enable the exchange of water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and many other nutrient and waste...

 (small blood vessel
Blood vessel
The blood vessels are the part of the circulatory system that transports blood throughout the body. There are three major types of blood vessels: the arteries, which carry the blood away from the heart; the capillaries, which enable the actual exchange of water and chemicals between the blood and...

s).
Encyclopedia
Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek (in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 also Anthonie, Antoni, or Theunis, in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, Antony or Anton; ˈleɪvənhʊk, ˈleːʋənˌhuːk; October 24, 1632 – August 26, 1723) was a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 tradesman and scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

 from Delft
Delft
Delft is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland , the Netherlands. It is located between Rotterdam and The Hague....

, Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. He is commonly known as "the Father of Microbiology
Fathers of scientific fields
Those known as the father, mother, or considered the founder of a scientific field are the scientists who have made important contributions to that field...

", and considered to be the first microbiologist
Microbiologist
A microbiologist is a scientist who works in the field of microbiology. Microbiologists study organisms called microbes. Microbes can take the form of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protists...

. He is best known for his work on the improvement of the microscope
Microscope
A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy...

 and for his contributions towards the establishment of microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

. Using his handcrafted microscopes, he was the first to observe and describe single celled organisms, which he originally referred to as animalcules, and which we now refer to as micro-organisms. He was also the first to record microscopic observations of muscle
Muscle
Muscle is a contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to...

 fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa
Spermatozoon
A spermatozoon is a motile sperm cell, or moving form of the haploid cell that is the male gamete. A spermatozoon joins an ovum to form a zygote...

 and blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 flow in capillaries
Capillary
Capillaries are the smallest of a body's blood vessels and are parts of the microcirculation. They are only 1 cell thick. These microvessels, measuring 5-10 μm in diameter, connect arterioles and venules, and enable the exchange of water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and many other nutrient and waste...

 (small blood vessel
Blood vessel
The blood vessels are the part of the circulatory system that transports blood throughout the body. There are three major types of blood vessels: the arteries, which carry the blood away from the heart; the capillaries, which enable the actual exchange of water and chemicals between the blood and...

s). Van Leeuwenhoek did not author any books, although he did write many letters.

Early involvement with the microscope

Van Leeuwenhoek's interest in microscopes and a familiarity with glass processing led to one of the most significant, and simultaneously well-hidden, technical insights in the history of science. By placing the middle of a small rod of soda lime glass in a hot flame, Van Leeuwenhoek could pull the hot section apart to create two long whiskers of glass. By then reinserting the end of one whisker into the flame, he could create a very small, high-quality glass sphere. These spheres became the lenses of his microscopes, with the smallest spheres providing the highest magnifications. An experienced businessman, Leeuwenhoek realized that if his simple method for creating the critically important lens was revealed, the scientific community of his time would likely disregard or even forget his role in microscopy. He therefore allowed others to believe that he was laboriously spending most of his nights and free time grinding increasingly tiny lenses to use in microscopes, even though this belief conflicted both with his construction of hundreds of microscopes and his habit of building a new microscope whenever he chanced upon an interesting specimen that he wanted to preserve.

Van Leeuwenhoek used samples and measurements to estimate numbers of microorganisms in units of water. Van Leeuwenhoek made good use of the huge lead provided by his method. He studied a broad range of microscopic phenomena, and shared the resulting observations freely with groups such as the English Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

. Such work firmly established his place in history as one of the first and most important explorers of the microscopic world. One of the first people to discover cells along with Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

.

Eventual recognition by the Royal Society of London

After developing his method for creating powerful lenses and applying them to study of the microscopic world, Van Leeuwenhoek was introduced via correspondence to the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 of London by the famous Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 Physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

 Reinier de Graaf
Regnier de Graaf
Regnier de Graaf, Dutch spelling Reinier de Graaf or latinized Reijnerus de Graeff was a Dutch physician and anatomist who made key discoveries in reproductive biology. His first name is often spelled Reinier or Reynier.-Biography:De Graaf was born in Schoonhoven and perhaps a relative to the De...

. He soon began to send copies of his recorded microscopic observations to the Royal Society. In 1673 his earliest observations were published by the Royal Society in its journal: Philosophical Transactions. Amongst those published were Van Leeuwenhoek's accounts of bee mouthparts and stings.

Despite the initial success of Van Leeuwenhoek's relationship with the Royal Society, this relationship was soon severely strained. In 1676 his credibility was questioned when he sent the Royal Society a copy of his first observations of microscopic single-celled organisms. Previously, the existence of single-celled organisms was entirely unknown. Thus, even with his established reputation with the Royal Society as a reliable observer, his observations of microscopic life were initially met with skepticism. Eventually, in the face of Van Leeuwenhoek's insistence, the Royal Society arranged to send an English vicar, as well as a team of respected jurists and doctors, to Delft, to determine whether it was in fact Van Leeuwenhoek's ability to observe and reason clearly, or perhaps the Royal Society's theories of life itself that might require reform. Finally in 1680, Van Leeuwenhoek's observations were fully vindicated by the Society.
Van Leeuwenhoek's vindication resulted in his appointment as a Fellow of the Royal Society in that year. After his appointment to the Society, he wrote approximately 560 letters to the Society and other scientific institutions over a period of 50 years. These letters dealt with the subjects he had investigated. Even when dying, Van Leeuwenhoek kept sending letters full of observations to London. The last few also contained a precise description of his own illness. He suffered from a rare disease, an uncontrolled movement of the midriff
Midriff
Midriff is a particular term to denominate the section of the human body between the thorax/chest and the pelvis/hips. It is used as a genteel avoidance of synonymous belly ; as a synonym for waist; and as a name for the area around the diaphragm Midriff is a particular term to denominate the...

, which is now named Van Leeuwenhoek's disease. He died at the age of 90, on August 26, 1723 and was buried four days later in the Oude Kerk (Delft)
Oude Kerk (Delft)
The Oude Kerk , nicknamed Oude Jan , is a Gothic Protestant church in the old city center of Delft, the Netherlands. Its most recognizable feature is a 75-meter-high brick tower that leans about two meters from the vertical....

.

In 1981 the British microscopist Brian J. Ford
Brian J. Ford
Brian J. Ford is an independent research biologist, author, and lecturer, who publishes on scientific issues for the general public...

 found that Van Leeuwenhoek's original specimens had survived in the collections of the Royal Society of London. They were found to be of high quality, and were all well preserved. Ford carried out observations with a range of microscopes, adding to our knowledge of Van Leeuwenhoek's work.

Discoveries

Van Leeuwenhoek ground more than 500 optical lenses. He also created at least 25 microscopes, of differing types, of which only nine survive. His microscopes were made of silver or copper frames, holding hand-ground lenses. Those that have survived are capable of magnification up to 275 times. It is suspected that Van Leeuwenhoek possessed some microscopes which could magnify up to 500 times. Although he has been widely regarded as a dilettante or amateur, his scientific research was of remarkably high quality.

Van Leeuwenhoek's main discoveries are:
  • the infusoria
    Infusoria
    Infusoria is a collective term for minute aquatic creatures like ciliates, euglenoids, protozoa, and unicellular algae that exist in freshwater ponds...

     (protist
    Protist
    Protists are a diverse group of eukaryotic microorganisms. Historically, protists were treated as the kingdom Protista, which includes mostly unicellular organisms that do not fit into the other kingdoms, but this group is contested in modern taxonomy...

    s in modern zoological
    Zoology
    Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

     classification), in 1674
  • the bacteria
    Bacteria
    Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

    , (e.g. large Selenomonad
    Selenomonad
    The genus Selenomonas constitutes a group of motile crescent-shaped bacteria within the Veillonellaceae family and includes species living in the gastrointestinal tracts of animals, in particular, the Ruminants....

    s from the human mouth), in 1676
  • the vacuole
    Vacuole
    A vacuole is a membrane-bound organelle which is present in all plant and fungal cells and some protist, animal and bacterial cells. Vacuoles are essentially enclosed compartments which are filled with water containing inorganic and organic molecules including enzymes in solution, though in certain...

     of the cell.
  • the spermatozoa
    Spermatozoon
    A spermatozoon is a motile sperm cell, or moving form of the haploid cell that is the male gamete. A spermatozoon joins an ovum to form a zygote...

     in 1677. Van Leeuwenhoek had troubles with Dutch theologists about his practice.
  • the banded pattern of muscular fibers
    Muscle
    Muscle is a contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to...

    , in 1682.


In 1687 he reported his research on the coffee bean
Coffee bean
A coffee bean is a seed of a coffee plant. It is the pit inside the red or purple fruit often referred to as a cherry. Even though they are seeds, they are referred to as 'beans' because of their resemblance to true beans. The fruits - coffee cherries or coffee berries - most commonly contain two...

. He roasted the bean, cut it into slices and saw a spongeous interior. The bean was pressed, and an oil appeared. He boiled the coffee with rain water twice, set it aside (and probably drank it slowly).

He was visited by Leibniz, William III of Orange
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 and his wife, the Amsterdam burgemeester (the mayor) Johan Huydecoper
Joan Huydecoper II
Joan Huydecoper van Maarsseveen II was the eldest son of burgomaster Joan Huydecoper van Maarsseveen I and the brother-in-law of the collector Jan J. Hinlopen and the sheriff Jacob Boreel. He was mayor of Amsterdam for 13 terms between 1673 and 1693...

, the latter very interested in collecting and growing plants for the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam and all gazed at the tiny creatures. Nicolaes Witsen
Nicolaes Witsen
Nicolaas or Nicolaes Witsen was mayor of Amsterdam thirteen times, between 1682-1706. In 1693 he became administrator of the VOC. In 1689 he was extraordinary-ambassador to the English court, and became Fellow of the Royal Society. In his free time he was cartographer, maritime writer, and an...

 sent him a map of Tartaria
Tartaria
Săliştea , known as Cioara until 1965, is a commune located in Alba county, Romania. The old name of Cioara is still widely used, especially by local residents.It is composed of four villages: Mărgineni, Săliştea, Săliştea-Deal and Tărtăria....

 and a mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

 found near the origin of the river Amur. In 1698 Van Leeuwenhoek was invited in the boat of tsar Peter the Great. On the occasion Van Leeuwenhoek presented the tsar an "eel-viewer", so Peter could study the blood circulation, whenever he wanted.

Like Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle FRS was a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He has been variously described as English, Irish, or Anglo-Irish, his father having come to Ireland from England during the time of the English plantations of...

 and Nicolaas Hartsoeker, Van Leeuwenhoek was interested in the dried cochineal
Cochineal
The cochineal is a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the crimson-colour dye carmine is derived. A primarily sessile parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico, this insect lives on cacti from the genus Opuntia, feeding on plant moisture and...

, trying to find out if the dye
Dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

 came from a berry
Berry
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. Grapes are an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels with a thin covering and fleshy interiors....

 or an insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

.

Lenses secret

Van Leeuwenhoek maintained throughout his life that there were aspects of microscope construction "which I only keep for myself", in particular his most critical secret of how he created lenses. For many years no-one was able to reconstruct Van Leeuwenhoek's design techniques. However, in 1957 C.L. Stong used thin glass thread fusing instead of polishing, and successfully created some working samples of a Leeuwenhoek design microscope. Such a method was also discovered independently by A.Mosolov and A.Belkin in the Novosibirsk State Medical Institute
Novosibirsk State Medical Academy
Novosibirsk State Medical Academy - a medical academy in Novosibirsk, Russia for training qualified doctors.It was organized in 1935 when the medical faculty was opened. Until 1999 it was known as the Novosibirsk medical institute. From 2005 it is the Novosibirsk medical academy. From 1996 to...

.

Religious interpretations of his discoveries

Van Leeuwenhoek was a Dutch Reformed Calvinist
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

. He often referred with reverence to the wonders God designed in making creatures great and small. He believed that his amazing discoveries were merely further proof of the great wonder of God's creation.

Van Leeuwenhoek's discovery that smaller organisms procreate similarly to larger organisms challenged the contemporary belief, generally held by the 17th century scientific community, that such organisms generated spontaneously
Spontaneous generation
Spontaneous generation or Equivocal generation is an obsolete principle regarding the origin of life from inanimate matter, which held that this process was a commonplace and everyday occurrence, as distinguished from univocal generation, or reproduction from parent...

. The position of the Church on the exact nature of the spontaneous generation of smaller organisms was ambivalent.

Possible Vermeer connection

Van Leeuwenhoek was a contemporary of another famous Delft citizen, painter Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer
Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime...

, who was baptized just four days earlier. It has been suggested that he is the man portrayed in two of Vermeer's paintings of the late 1660s, The Astronomer and The Geographer
Geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

. However, others argue that there appears to be little physical similarity. Because they were both relatively important men in a city with only 24,000 inhabitants, it is likely that they were at least acquaintances. Also, it is known that Van Leeuwenhoek acted as the executor
Executor
An executor, in the broadest sense, is one who carries something out .-Overview:...

 of the will when the painter died in 1675.

In A Short History of Nearly Everything
A Short History of Nearly Everything
A Short History of Nearly Everything is a popular science book by American author Bill Bryson that explains some areas of science, using a style of language which aims to be more accessible to the general public than many other books dedicated to the subject...

(p. 236) Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and on science. Born an American, he was a resident of Britain for most of his adult life before moving back to the US in 1995...

 alludes to rumors that Vermeer's mastery of light and perspective came from use of a camera obscura
Camera obscura
The camera obscura is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen. It is used in drawing and for entertainment, and was one of the inventions that led to photography. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side...

 produced by Van Leeuwenhoek. This is one of the examples of the controversial Hockney–Falco thesis, which claims that some of the Old Master
Old Master
"Old Master" is a term for a European painter of skill who worked before about 1800, or a painting by such an artist. An "old master print" is an original print made by an artist in the same period...

s used optical aids to produce their masterpieces.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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