Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723) was a Dutch businessman and scientist in the Golden Age of Dutch science and technology. A largely self-taught man in science, he is commonly known as “the Father of Microbiology”, and one of the first microscopists and microbiologists.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Photos and Videos

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Van Leeuwenhoek is best known for his pioneering work in microscopy and for his contributions toward the establishment of microbiology as a scientific discipline.
Raised in Delft, Dutch Republic, van Leeuwenhoek worked as a draper in his youth and founded his own shop in 1654. He became well recognized in municipal politics and developed an interest in lensmaking. In the 1670s, he started to explore microbial life with his microscope. This was one of the notable achievements of the Golden Age of Dutch exploration and discovery (c. 1590s–1720s).

Van Leeuwenhoek Laboratorium in Delft, Nederland

Van Leeuwenhoek Laboratory in Delft, the Netherlands

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Using single-lensed microscopes of his own design, van Leeuwenhoek was the first to experiment with microbes, which he originally referred to as animalcules (from Latin animalculum = “tiny animal”). Through his experiments, he was the first to relatively determine their size. Most of the “animalcules” are now referred to as unicellular organisms, although he observed multicellular organisms in pond water. He was also the first to document microscopic observations of muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa, red blood cells, crystals in gouty tophi, and blood flow in capillaries. Although van Leeuwenhoek did not write any books, his discoveries came to light through correspondence with the Royal Society, which published his letters.

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Kunstwerk ´Het Geheim van Nano´ bij het Van Leeuwenhoek Laboratorium in Delft, Nederland

Artwork ‘The Secret of Nano’ at the Van Leeuwenhoek Laboratory in Delft, the Netherlands

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By the end of his life, van Leeuwenhoek had written approximately 560 letters to the Royal Society and other scientific institutions concerning his observations and discoveries. Even during the last weeks of his life, van Leeuwenhoek continued to send letters full of observations to London. The last few contained a precise description of his own illness. He suffered from a rare disease, an uncontrolled movement of the midriff, which now is named van Leeuwenhoek’s disease. He died at the age of 90, on 26 August 1723, and was buried four days later in the Oude Kerk in Delft.
The Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital in Amsterdam, named after van Leeuwenhoek, is specialized in oncology. In 2004, a public poll in the Netherlands to determine the greatest Dutchman (“De Grootste Nederlander”) named van Leeuwenhoek the 4th-greatest Dutchman of all time.

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