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May 5, 2021
17th Century Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek

Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

Ontledingen en ontdekkingen. 6vol. Leiden, 1693-1718.

Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek
Portrait of Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek
Portrait of Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek

Antonie Von Leeuwenhoek was a tradesman from Delft in Netherlands. He had an excellent ability in lens making with almost perfect spherical shape. He is best known for the improvement of microscopes and created more than 200 hand-crafted single lens microscopes with a magnification power up to 270 times. Von Leeuwenhoek had the passion of observing and studying the microscopic world. He shared his observations via letters with the Royal Society of London from 1673 and wrote about 200 letters in a 50-year period. He was the first to observe microorganisms that he called "animalcules" and is considered the founder of the microbiology. He reported the discovery of protozoa in 1677 in the "Philosophical Transactions" and published his drawings of bacteria in the same journal in 1683.

Von Leeuwenhoek studied arteries and veins and confirmed Malpighi's discovery of the capillary system. He provided the first precise description of red blood cells that he primarily observed in fish. He studied them further using his own blood and communicated his findings to the Royal Society in 1674.

The invention of microscope was a milestone in the history of medical sciences and an indispensable tool allowing to fully describe and understand the circulatory system.

A selection of microscopes that was used in Europe during 17th and 18th centuries is shown here.


Weller CV. Antony van Leeuwenhoek. Ann Int Med 1932;6:573-584

Castiglioni A. A history of medicine. Translated by E. B. Krumbhaar. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1941


Marcello Malpighi Richard Lower