Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek
Tradesman, Scientist

Commonly known as the father of microbiology, Leeuwenhoek is best known for improving the microscope, a major contribution toward establishing the field of microbiology itself.

(Engraved title page from Arcana Naturae Detecta)

(Engraved title page from Arcana Naturae Detecta)

(Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes)

(Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes)

With little formal education, Leeuwenhoek worked as a draper for most of his life, using magnifying lenses to inspect the threads of his cloth products.  As an amateur lens-grinder he would begin to construct his own microscopes, eventually creating lenses with a magnification never before seen.  Though not an academic, he wrote letters to the Royal Society of London describing his observations of mold, bees, lice and even his own blood.  In his lifetime he ground over 500 lenses, some from 50X to 200X magnification.

(Plates from Leeuwenhoek’s Arcana Naturae Detecta…)

(Plates from Leeuwenhoek’s Arcana Naturae Detecta…)

(Plates from Leeuwenhoek’s Arcana Naturae Detecta…)


Rare Book

Arcana Naturae Detecta…, or Nature Unfolded, 1695

Leeuwenhoek’s masterwork is a collection of his letters to the Royal Society, complete with a portrait of the scientist and numerous engraved plates to illustrate the detail of various specimens that he described.


Additional Websites

Website that contains a biography, a timeline of his life, discussion of his work and the historical context in which it was produced as well as copies of his letters and publications.

Digitized edition of Arcana Naturae Detecta

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