A Short Bilgraphical Sketch of Antony van Leeuvanhoek

Here is one of my earliest research papers. It presents a short biographical sketch of one of the most important figures in the history of the science of biology, Dutch scientist Antony van Leeuvenhoek. I hope this inspires you to learn more about this amazing scientist.

Antony van Leeuwenhoek (Layu-wen-hook) was of trades-person lineage born in 1632 in the microscopic (compared with today) village of Delft, Holland. Here, he branched out rapidly in every direction of knowledge, but especially towards biology, on which the numerous fruits of his inquiries weighed heavily.

His formal education at Warmond relocated him to Benthuizen with his uncle. At 16, Leeuvenhoek apprenticed to a linen-draper (merchant). 6 years later, upon his return to Delft, he became a fabric merchant. Yet this by no means consumed his ranging attentions which became captivated by the microscope, in a cell forged by the reading of Robert Hooke’s popular Micrographia. Already, in 1595, compound microscopes capable 30 times magnification had been invented, however Leeuwenhoek through indefatigable patience and skill, ground his own lenses capable of over 200 times magnification. These mounted on a simple 3-4 inch long brass plate with adjustment screws and a mounting needle formed a simple, yet powerful microscope that became the primary tool of his real occupation: biology.

In this field Leeuvenhoek joined the luminaries of his time at the Royal Society of London. Letters beginning in 1673, and widely published, to the Royal society constituted his vivid descriptions of micro-biota and a drawing by his hired illustrator. He observed whatever could be placed on the end of his needle; plaque, pond water, blood, etc. He made the first observation of bacteria, sperm cells, blood cells, various nematodes and rotifers, free living and microscopic parasitic protists, and microscopic foraminifera; these only being the tip of the microscope.

Dutch, his native language, remained Leeuvenhoek’s only throughout his entire 91 years. Thus, his Dutch letters required translation before there publication in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the publication of the Royal Society of London that he held membership in. His work turned towards him the attentions of such persons as Tsar Peter the Great of Russia who’s, like that of so many others, curiosity brought him to Delft where, at any time between 1654 and August 30, 1723 at the time of his death, one might catch Leeuwenhoek adjusting a microscope over some hitherto unknown specimen.


W., B. M. “Antony Van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723).” Antony Van Leeuwenhoek, University of California, Berkely, 1996, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/leeuwenhoek.html.