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Van Leeuwenhoek microscope takes £260,000

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  • Michael Robinson
    Van Leeuwenhoek microscope takes £260,000 08 May 2009 HE had received only a basic education and spoke only Dutch, but Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) is
    Message 1 of 3 , May 11, 2009
      Van Leeuwenhoek microscope takes £260,000
      08 May 2009
      HE had received only a basic education and spoke only Dutch, but Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) is today recognised as the greatest of the pioneering microscopists of the 17th century.

      Using his own simple instruments, it was Van Leeuwenhoek who first observed such wonders as muscle fibres, red blood corpuscles, bacteria, protozoa and spermatozoa – which he called "little men".

      Accounts vary as to his career path, but he seems to have worked as a surveyor, a beer and wine gauger, a minor civil servant and as an apprentice to a cloth merchant, where he learnt to examine fabrics with a magnifying glass. At some point he was to learn how to grind and blow lenses and in 1671 had constructed the microscope that would open a way into the world of micro-organisms.

      It was relatively simple – two lenses held between riveted silver plates – but focusing was achieved by a screw mechanism.

      Given his lack of a formal education, his claims were at first dismissed as fanciful. However, a letter announcing his discoveries of animacules, or "little animals", living in rainwater, was eventually translated into English and published in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions. He was elected a Fellow in 1680.

      Van Leeuwenhoek would present his microscopes to Queen Mary and to Peter the Great, and gave 26 silver examples to the Royal Society – all now lost. In all, he is thought to have made some 550 microscopes, mostly in brass, though very few seem to have survived.

      The appearance of a silver example in a mixed book, picture, print and scientific instrument sale at Christie's South Kensington on April 8 was thus a very special event.

      Just nine 17th century Van Leeuwenhoek microscopes are now recorded, and only three of them are in silver. One is in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, another in the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, while the example at South Kensington was found in a box of laboratory impedimenta from the Zoological Department of Leiden University in 1978, when it was purchased around that time by the vendor.

      Reproductions of Van Leeuwenhoek instruments were made in the 1880s (the example in the Carl Zeiss collections at Jena is believed to be a copy), but potential buyers at Christie's were reassured by the presence of two 19th century Dutch sale marks, the earlier of which identifies it as having been sold at auction between 1814 and 1831. It is also thought to have been the microscope featured in an 1875 Harting exhibition catalogue and the example recorded in the collection of the Dutch zoologist R.T. Maitland (1823-1904).

      Putting a value on such a rarity would have been difficult, but in the end the saleroom suggested £70,000-100,000. It sold on the day for £260,000.

      By Ian McKay

      Link to story, with photo:
      http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/7137.aspx

      Auction House Description -- with set of 'zoomable' photos:
      http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5192744&sid=decfcf0c-6861-4885-932a-e53b03621b39
      If link does not work:
      Sale 5808, Lot 88
      travel, science & natural history, 8 April 2009
      London, South Kensington
    • Terry Foreman
      Michael, Great find! In 1666 Leeuwenhoek was named Chamberlain of the Council Chamber of the Worshipful Sherriffs of Delft. That was the year his wife died,
      Message 2 of 3 , May 11, 2009
        Michael,

        Great find!


        In 1666 Leeuwenhoek was named Chamberlain of the Council Chamber of the
        Worshipful Sherriffs of Delft. That was the year his wife died, and two
        years later Leeuwenhoek made one of the only two foreign trips that he took
        in his lifetime, visiting the chalk hills of Gravesend and Rochester in
        Kent. His other occasion for travel abroad was a journey that he made to
        Antwerp in 1698 to see the Jesuit scholar Daniel Papenbroek. Upon his
        return to delft in 1699 he was appointed surveyor to the court of Holland.

        In the meantime Leeuwenhoek continued to advance in the service of the city
        of Delft, being made chief warden of the city in 1677 and, because of his
        mathematical skills, “wine and liquor gauger” (or inspector of weights and
        measures) in 1679. The income and emoluments from these offices made him
        financially secure, especially in his old age, when the municipality, in
        gratitude for his scientific achievements, granted him a pension.

        Leeuwenhoek remarried on January 25, 1671. His second wife was Cornelia
        Swalmius, the daughter of Johannes Swalmius, a Calvinist minister at
        Valkenburg, near Leiden. She died in 1694; the one child of this marriage
        did not survive infancy. It probably that his second wife, who was an
        educated women, gave Leeuwenhoek the impetus to his scientific activity.
        The income from his public offices as well as a family inheritance gave him
        sufficient resources to launch his exploration of the microscopic worlds.

        In 1676 he served as the trustee of the estate of the deceased and bankrupt
        Jan Vermeer, the famous painter, who had been born in the same year as
        Leeuwenhoek and is thought to have been a friend of his.

        At the time of his appointment in 1666 he had already begun to broaden his
        scientific horizons, studying navigation, astronomy, mathematics and
        natural sciences.

        Into science
        Leeuwenhoek’s scientific life may be said to have begun in about 1671, when
        he was thirty-nine years old. At that time, developing the idea of the
        glasses used by drapers to inspect the quality of cloth, he constructed his
        first simple microscope or magnifying glasses, consisting of a minute lens,
        ground by hand from a globule of glass, clamped between two small
        perforated metal plates.

        He seems to have been inspired to take up microscopy by having seen a copy
        of Robert Hooke’s illustrated book Micrographia, which depicted Hooke’s own
        observations with the microscope and was very popular.

        It was through his letters - more than 300 of them, written to private
        scientists and amateurs in both Holland and other countries - that
        Leeuwenhoek made his work known. He wrote exclusively in Dutch, but had a
        few of his letters translated for the benefit of his correspondents. It was
        his friend Regnier de Graaf (1641-1693) who made sure that Leeuwenhoek's
        achievements became known to a wider audience. De Graaf put Leeuwenhoek in
        contact with the Royal Society in London, to which he communicated most of
        his discoveries in papers in the form of a lengthy correspondence with
        Henry Oldenburg, the Society’s secretary. His first letter, of 1673,
        contained some observations on the stings of bees. His letters, written in
        Dutch, were translated into English or Latin and printed in the
        Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and often reprinted
        separately. All together he sent 190 papers to the Royal Society, to which
        he also donated 26 microscopes.

        “Very little animalcules”
        Leeuwenhoek made his most important discovery early in his scientific
        career, in 1674, when he recognized the true nature of microorganisms. He
        began to observe bacteria and protozoa, his "very little animalcules,"
        which he was able to isolate from different sources, such as rainwater,
        pond and well water, and the human mouth and intestine. Starting from the
        assumption that life and motility are identical, he concluded that the
        moving object that he saw through his microscope were little animals.

        He recorded these observations in his diary, and two years later, in a
        letter of October 9, 1676, communicated them to the Royal Society, where
        they caused a sensation. Indeed, such was the disbelief of some of fellows
        of that body that Leeuwenhoek felt obliged to procure written attestations
        to the reliability of his observations from ministers, jurists, and medical
        men. Leeuwenhoek subsequently described, in about thirty letters to the
        Royal Society, many specific forms of microorganisms, including bacteria,
        protozoa, and rotifers, as well as his incidental discovery of ciliate
        reproduction.

        http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/1593.html



        At 05:54 PM 5/11/2009 +0000, you wrote:
        >Van Leeuwenhoek microscope takes £260,000
        >08 May 2009
        >HE had received only a basic education and spoke only Dutch, but Antoni
        >van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) is today recognised as the greatest of the
        >pioneering microscopists of the 17th century.
        >
        >Using his own simple instruments, it was Van Leeuwenhoek who first
        >observed such wonders as muscle fibres, red blood corpuscles, bacteria,
        >protozoa and spermatozoa ­ which he called "little men".
        >
        >Accounts vary as to his career path, but he seems to have worked as a
        >surveyor, a beer and wine gauger, a minor civil servant and as an
        >apprentice to a cloth merchant, where he learnt to examine fabrics with a
        >magnifying glass. At some point he was to learn how to grind and blow
        >lenses and in 1671 had constructed the microscope that would open a way
        >into the world of micro-organisms.
        >
        >It was relatively simple ­ two lenses held between riveted silver plates ­
        >but focusing was achieved by a screw mechanism.
        >
        >Given his lack of a formal education, his claims were at first dismissed
        >as fanciful. However, a letter announcing his discoveries of animacules,
        >or "little animals", living in rainwater, was eventually translated into
        >English and published in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions.
        >He was elected a Fellow in 1680.
        >
        >Van Leeuwenhoek would present his microscopes to Queen Mary and to Peter
        >the Great, and gave 26 silver examples to the Royal Society ­ all now
        >lost. In all, he is thought to have made some 550 microscopes, mostly in
        >brass, though very few seem to have survived.
        >
        >The appearance of a silver example in a mixed book, picture, print and
        >scientific instrument sale at Christie's South Kensington on April 8 was
        >thus a very special event.
        >
        >Just nine 17th century Van Leeuwenhoek microscopes are now recorded, and
        >only three of them are in silver. One is in the Deutsches Museum in
        >Munich, another in the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, while the example at
        >South Kensington was found in a box of laboratory impedimenta from the
        >Zoological Department of Leiden University in 1978, when it was purchased
        >around that time by the vendor.
        >
        >Reproductions of Van Leeuwenhoek instruments were made in the 1880s (the
        >example in the Carl Zeiss collections at Jena is believed to be a copy),
        >but potential buyers at Christie's were reassured by the presence of two
        >19th century Dutch sale marks, the earlier of which identifies it as
        >having been sold at auction between 1814 and 1831. It is also thought to
        >have been the microscope featured in an 1875 Harting exhibition catalogue
        >and the example recorded in the collection of the Dutch zoologist R.T.
        >Maitland (1823-1904).
        >
        >Putting a value on such a rarity would have been difficult, but in the end
        >the saleroom suggested £70,000-100,000. It sold on the day for £260,000.
        >
        >By Ian McKay
        >
        >Link to story, with photo:
        >http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/7137.aspx
        >
        >Auction House Description -- with set of 'zoomable' photos:
        >http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5192744&sid=decfcf0c-6861-4885-932a-e53b03621b39
        >If link does not work:
        >Sale 5808, Lot 88
        >travel, science & natural history, 8 April 2009
        >London, South Kensington
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >------------------------------------
        >
        >Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >No virus found in this incoming message.
        >Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
        >Version: 8.0.238 / Virus Database: 270.12.24/2108 - Release Date: 05/11/09
        >05:52:00
      • Susan Thomas
        Thank you to Terry and Michael for this fascinating detail about early microscopes - great start to my day! A.S.
        Message 3 of 3 , May 11, 2009
          Thank you to Terry and Michael for this fascinating detail about early
          microscopes - great start to my day!

          A.S.


          Terry Foreman wrote:
          >
          >
          > Michael,
          >
          > Great find!
          >
          > In 1666 Leeuwenhoek was named Chamberlain of the Council Chamber of the
          > Worshipful Sherriffs of Delft. That was the year his wife died, and two
          > years later Leeuwenhoek made one of the only two foreign trips that he
          > took
          > in his lifetime, visiting the chalk hills of Gravesend and Rochester in
          > Kent. His other occasion for travel abroad was a journey that he made to
          > Antwerp in 1698 to see the Jesuit scholar Daniel Papenbroek. Upon his
          > return to delft in 1699 he was appointed surveyor to the court of Holland.
          >
          > In the meantime Leeuwenhoek continued to advance in the service of the
          > city
          > of Delft, being made chief warden of the city in 1677 and, because of his
          > mathematical skills, “wine and liquor gauger” (or inspector of weights
          > and
          > measures) in 1679. The income and emoluments from these offices made him
          > financially secure, especially in his old age, when the municipality, in
          > gratitude for his scientific achievements, granted him a pension.
          >
          > Leeuwenhoek remarried on January 25, 1671. His second wife was Cornelia
          > Swalmius, the daughter of Johannes Swalmius, a Calvinist minister at
          > Valkenburg, near Leiden. She died in 1694; the one child of this marriage
          > did not survive infancy. It probably that his second wife, who was an
          > educated women, gave Leeuwenhoek the impetus to his scientific activity.
          > The income from his public offices as well as a family inheritance
          > gave him
          > sufficient resources to launch his exploration of the microscopic worlds.
          >
          > In 1676 he served as the trustee of the estate of the deceased and
          > bankrupt
          > Jan Vermeer, the famous painter, who had been born in the same year as
          > Leeuwenhoek and is thought to have been a friend of his.
          >
          > At the time of his appointment in 1666 he had already begun to broaden
          > his
          > scientific horizons, studying navigation, astronomy, mathematics and
          > natural sciences.
          >
          > Into science
          > Leeuwenhoek’s scientific life may be said to have begun in about 1671,
          > when
          > he was thirty-nine years old. At that time, developing the idea of the
          > glasses used by drapers to inspect the quality of cloth, he
          > constructed his
          > first simple microscope or magnifying glasses, consisting of a minute
          > lens,
          > ground by hand from a globule of glass, clamped between two small
          > perforated metal plates.
          >
          > He seems to have been inspired to take up microscopy by having seen a
          > copy
          > of Robert Hooke’s illustrated book Micrographia, which depicted
          > Hooke’s own
          > observations with the microscope and was very popular.
          >
          > It was through his letters - more than 300 of them, written to private
          > scientists and amateurs in both Holland and other countries - that
          > Leeuwenhoek made his work known. He wrote exclusively in Dutch, but had a
          > few of his letters translated for the benefit of his correspondents.
          > It was
          > his friend Regnier de Graaf (1641-1693) who made sure that Leeuwenhoek's
          > achievements became known to a wider audience. De Graaf put
          > Leeuwenhoek in
          > contact with the Royal Society in London, to which he communicated
          > most of
          > his discoveries in papers in the form of a lengthy correspondence with
          > Henry Oldenburg, the Society’s secretary. His first letter, of 1673,
          > contained some observations on the stings of bees. His letters,
          > written in
          > Dutch, were translated into English or Latin and printed in the
          > Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and often reprinted
          > separately. All together he sent 190 papers to the Royal Society, to
          > which
          > he also donated 26 microscopes.
          >
          > “Very little animalcules”
          > Leeuwenhoek made his most important discovery early in his scientific
          > career, in 1674, when he recognized the true nature of microorganisms. He
          > began to observe bacteria and protozoa, his "very little animalcules,"
          > which he was able to isolate from different sources, such as rainwater,
          > pond and well water, and the human mouth and intestine. Starting from the
          > assumption that life and motility are identical, he concluded that the
          > moving object that he saw through his microscope were little animals.
          >
          > He recorded these observations in his diary, and two years later, in a
          > letter of October 9, 1676, communicated them to the Royal Society, where
          > they caused a sensation. Indeed, such was the disbelief of some of
          > fellows
          > of that body that Leeuwenhoek felt obliged to procure written
          > attestations
          > to the reliability of his observations from ministers, jurists, and
          > medical
          > men. Leeuwenhoek subsequently described, in about thirty letters to the
          > Royal Society, many specific forms of microorganisms, including bacteria,
          > protozoa, and rotifers, as well as his incidental discovery of ciliate
          > reproduction.
          >
          > http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/1593.html
          > <http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/1593.html>
          >
          > At 05:54 PM 5/11/2009 +0000, you wrote:
          > >Van Leeuwenhoek microscope takes £260,000
          > >08 May 2009
          > >HE had received only a basic education and spoke only Dutch, but Antoni
          > >van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) is today recognised as the greatest of the
          > >pioneering microscopists of the 17th century.
          > >
          > >Using his own simple instruments, it was Van Leeuwenhoek who first
          > >observed such wonders as muscle fibres, red blood corpuscles, bacteria,
          > >protozoa and spermatozoa ­ which he called "little men".
          > >
          > >Accounts vary as to his career path, but he seems to have worked as a
          > >surveyor, a beer and wine gauger, a minor civil servant and as an
          > >apprentice to a cloth merchant, where he learnt to examine fabrics
          > with a
          > >magnifying glass. At some point he was to learn how to grind and blow
          > >lenses and in 1671 had constructed the microscope that would open a way
          > >into the world of micro-organisms.
          > >
          > >It was relatively simple ­ two lenses held between riveted silver
          > plates ­
          > >but focusing was achieved by a screw mechanism.
          > >
          > >Given his lack of a formal education, his claims were at first dismissed
          > >as fanciful. However, a letter announcing his discoveries of animacules,
          > >or "little animals", living in rainwater, was eventually translated into
          > >English and published in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions.
          > >He was elected a Fellow in 1680.
          > >
          > >Van Leeuwenhoek would present his microscopes to Queen Mary and to Peter
          > >the Great, and gave 26 silver examples to the Royal Society ­ all now
          > >lost. In all, he is thought to have made some 550 microscopes, mostly in
          > >brass, though very few seem to have survived.
          > >
          > >The appearance of a silver example in a mixed book, picture, print and
          > >scientific instrument sale at Christie's South Kensington on April 8 was
          > >thus a very special event.
          > >
          > >Just nine 17th century Van Leeuwenhoek microscopes are now recorded, and
          > >only three of them are in silver. One is in the Deutsches Museum in
          > >Munich, another in the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, while the example at
          > >South Kensington was found in a box of laboratory impedimenta from the
          > >Zoological Department of Leiden University in 1978, when it was
          > purchased
          > >around that time by the vendor.
          > >
          > >Reproductions of Van Leeuwenhoek instruments were made in the 1880s (the
          > >example in the Carl Zeiss collections at Jena is believed to be a copy),
          > >but potential buyers at Christie's were reassured by the presence of two
          > >19th century Dutch sale marks, the earlier of which identifies it as
          > >having been sold at auction between 1814 and 1831. It is also thought to
          > >have been the microscope featured in an 1875 Harting exhibition
          > catalogue
          > >and the example recorded in the collection of the Dutch zoologist R.T.
          > >Maitland (1823-1904).
          > >
          > >Putting a value on such a rarity would have been difficult, but in
          > the end
          > >the saleroom suggested £70,000-100,000. It sold on the day for £260,000.
          > >
          > >By Ian McKay
          > >
          > >Link to story, with photo:
          > >http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/7137.aspx
          > <http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/7137.aspx>
          > >
          > >Auction House Description -- with set of 'zoomable' photos:
          > >http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5192744&sid=decfcf0c-6861-4885-932a-e53b03621b39
          > <http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5192744&sid=decfcf0c-6861-4885-932a-e53b03621b39>
          > >If link does not work:
          > >Sale 5808, Lot 88
          > >travel, science & natural history, 8 April 2009
          > >London, South Kensington
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >------------------------------------
          > >
          > >Yahoo! Groups Links
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >No virus found in this incoming message.
          > >Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
          > >Version: 8.0.238 / Virus Database: 270.12.24/2108 - Release Date:
          > 05/11/09
          > >05:52:00
          >
          >
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