Re: [pepysdiary] Van Leeuwenhoek microscope takes £260 ,000
- Thank you to Terry and Michael for this fascinating detail about early
microscopes - great start to my day!
Terry Foreman wrote:
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> scientific horizons, studying navigation, astronomy, mathematics and
> natural sciences.
> Into science
> Leeuwenhoek’s scientific life may be said to have begun in about 1671,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> of that body that Leeuwenhoek felt obliged to procure written
> to the reliability of his observations from ministers, jurists, and
> 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
> 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
> >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
> >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
> >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:
> >Auction House Description -- with set of 'zoomable' photos:
> >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: