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Today Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s 384th Birthday

Antonі van Leeuwenhoek (1632 - 1723) was a Dutch tradesman and scientist, best known for his work on the development and improvement of the microscope and also for his subsequent contribution towards the study of microbiology.

Using handcrafted microscopes, Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to observe and describe single celled organisms, which he originally referred to as animalcules (which we now refer to as microorganisms). He was also the first to record and observe muscle fibres, bacteria, spermatozoa and blood flow in capillaries (small blood vessels).

Born in Delft, the Netherlands, on October 24, 1632, Anton van Leeuwenhoek (in Dutch Antonie van Leeuwenhoek) was the son of a basket maker. At the age of 16, van Leeuwenhoek secured an apprenticeship with a cloth merchant in Amsterdam as a bookkeeper and casher. There he saw his first simple microscope, a simple magnifying glass mounted on a small stand, as used by cloth merchants of the time. After a short period, had acquired one for his own use.

In 1654, van Leeuwenhoek returned to Delft where he started a own successful drapery business, though it was to be his interest in microscopes and a familiarity with glass processing that would lead to the significant discoveries he would later make.

Anton van Leeuwenhoek was an unlikely scientist, since he came from a family of tradesmen, had no fortune and received no higher education or university degrees. This would have been enough to exclude him from the scientific community completely, yet with skill and diligence, van Leeuwenhoek succeeded in making some of the most important discoveries in the history of biology, considered as "the Father of Microbiology".

And at some time before 1668, Anton van Leeuwenhoek had learned to grind lenses, making simple microscopes, which he used to make simple observations. Seemingly inspired to into more serious research after seeing a copy of Robert Hooke's illustrated book Micrographia, which depicted Hooke's own observations with the microscope and was very popular, van Leeuwenhoek started developing his own microscopes.

Van Leeuwenhoek's microscope

By placing the middle of a small rod of soda lime glass in a hot flame, van Leeuwenhoek could pull the hot section apart like taffy to create two long whiskers of glass. By then reinserting the end of one whisker into the flame, he could create a very small, high-quality glass sphere. These glass spheres then became the lenses of his microscopes, with the smallest spheres providing the highest magnifications

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