Leeuwenhoek, Anthonie van
Scientist (1632 - 1723)
Van Leeuwenhoek was a merchant in cloth and silk who later became a municipal
official in Delft.
He also developed as a biologist and leading microscopist who very skilfully
built his own microscopes. He was eventually to own some 527 microscopes, with magnifications
ranging from 40 to 270.
His scientific activities started later when he recorded his observations through the microscope. After discovering the ‘animalcules' (i.e. micro-organisms) that live in water, his research led to the discovery of bacteria, blood corpuscles and spermatozoa. As Van Leeuwenhoek had never had any academic training, he did not master any foreign languages.
The physician Reinier de Graaf introduced him to the Royal Society, the most prominent scientific institute in London. When his scientific letters were translated and published in Philosophical Transactions, Van Leeuwenhoek turned from an isolated amateur researcher into a world-famous scientist. Even Queen Mary of England and Tsar Peter the Great went to visit him in Delft.