xxxxxLike his contemporary, the Italian physiologist Marcello Malpighi, the Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was a pioneer in microscopic research. They founded histology, the branch of medicine concerned with the minute structure of cells, tissue and organs. Leeuwenhoek ground his own lenses, and the magnification he achieved with his single-
ANTONI VAN LEEUWENHOEK 1632 -
(C1, CW, C2, J2, W3, AN, G1)
Leeuwenhoek: by the Dutch painter Jan Verkolje (1650-
xxxxxThe Dutch draper Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, like his contemporary the Italian physiologist Marcello Malpighi, was a pioneer in microscopic research and made a number of important discoveries. Together they founded what came to be known as histology, a branch of medicine concerned with the minute structure of cells, tissue and organs. His remarkable success was due to the quality of his single-
xxxxxHe was born in Delft and started his working life in Amsterdam as an apprentice to a cloth merchant. He returned to Delft in 1652 and set himself up as a draper and haberdasher. He had little, if any, education of a scientific nature, but, as a hobby, he took up lens grinding, and made a number of tiny double-
xxxxxThe Dutchman Jan Swammerdam (1637-
xxxxxHis series of discoveries brought him fame. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society of England in 1680, and most of his discoveries were published in the society's Philosophical Transactions. Two collections of his work appeared during his life time, one in Dutch and one in Latin. Among the many notables who visited him at work were Peter the Great of Russia, Frederick II of Prussia, and James II and Queen Anne of Britain. He is regarded by some as the Father of Bacteriology. Unfortunately, however, the pioneer work he made in microscopy did not bring lasting benefit, because he refused to disclose the grinding technique he used in the making of his superb lenses. It was not until the early 19th century, in fact, that the improvement of the compound lens brought further advances in this field.
xxxxxIncidentally, Leeuwenhoek was a friend of his fellow countryman Christiaan Huygens. As we have seen (1657 CW), this Dutch scientist also ground his own lenses and by 1655 had greatly improved the quality of his telescope, making possible a number of discoveries, including that of Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Little is known of their friendship, but It is just possible that Huygens helped Leeuwenhoek (or, indeed, vice versa) in the making of more efficient lenses.
xxxxxAnother Dutchman who made good use of a microscope was Jan Swammerdam (1637-
xxxxxHe was born in Amsterdam and, after taking medicine at Leiden University, devoted his time to a microscopic study of human anatomy, animals, insects and plants. In his work on human anatomy, he is best remembered for his discovery of the valves in the lymphatic system (still known as Swammerdam valves), and for his examination of the human means of reproduction. He is also considered to be the first microscopist to describe red blood cells, observed by him in 1658 and later confirmed in greater detail by Leeuwenhoek.
xxxxxAlthough he published several treatises during his working career, the value of his research was not fully appreciated until his manuscripts -