World’s Super Scientists – Anton Van Leeuwenhoek

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Look into the microscope, don’t look down on it – Anton Van Leeuwenhoek

Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632 to 1723) a grinder of lenses, a self-taught Dutch was born in Delft, the pretty town of windmills and canals in Holland on October 24, 1632.

While Galileo turned his telescope towards heavens and celestial objects, Leeuwenhoek manoeuvered his microscope to have a glimpse of the microscopic world and objects.

In 1673 the Royal Society of London received a letter from Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek entitled, “A Specimen of some Observations made by a Microscope contrived by Mr. Leeuwenhoek concerning Mould upon the Skin, Flesh, etc.; the Sting of a Bee, etc.” The erudite members laughed at first at the venture of a grinder of lenses, but later were astonished and respected his idea.

Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek was a single lens microscope; the lenses were ground to such a perfection that they have not yet been surpassed in quality. Grinding of lenses was a passion for him; they were shining like bubbles with his bubbling  enthusiasm.

The size of the lens was about one-eighth inch in diameter, say of the dimension of the letter ‘O’. His was a “simple microscope”.

It could beat in efficacy the compound microscope with two system of lenses.
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In all, Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek made over 400 magnifying lenses.Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek improvised delicate and strong strands which supported the lens in the instrument called microscope.

Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek studied diverse objects under his microscope like spermatozoa of dogs, blood cells, bacteria and protozoa; the most powerful of his instruments could magnify an object 275 times.

As knowledge progressed, modern optical microscope was devised to magnify about 2,500 times. With the advent of electron microscope the magnification attempted is over 100,000 times.

His neighbours in Delft ranked him as a mad cap, always at scrutiny under the microscope.

Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek described the microscopic objects as “wretched beasties”. When rain water was stored for some days “animalcules” appeared under his microscope; those were brought by wind and dust, he thought.

Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek pricked his finger with a needle, allowed blood to ooze, examined in it red blood cells. In 1674 he informed this to the Royal Society. Later he examined the sperm cells produced by dogs and other animals.

Still the Royal Society wanted to verify the findings of this self-tutored, unassuming commoner Dutchman, in the context ‘science vs. fiction’. Robert Hooke and Nehemiah Grew were entrusted with this responsibility.

To the astonishment of one and all, they agreed to the existence of this ‘microscopic world’, looking into this mysterious microscope! Anton was honoured and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1680.

Paris Academy of Sciences had also received letters from him. The Russian Ruler, Peter the Great and the Queen of England paid a visit to him. They were enthusiastic to look into his microscope.

In 1683 Anton drew drawings of bacteria. Gradually he, studied decaying matter, eggs of insects. He saw the capillary blood vessels in the tail of a fish while examining under his microscope.

Scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek lived to a ripe age of 91, still hale and hearty, in the pink. Thus he grounded his body tissues to live long pari passu his art of grinding the lenses.
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Present day microscopes

Binocular, compound, dissecting, electron, fluorescence, infrared, light, polarisation / polarising, stereoscopic, ultraviolet and X-ray microscope.


Hate is scrutinized through a microscope; love is enjoyed through a telescope!

JEE Main

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