Friday, August 10, 2007

Antony van Leeuwenhoek

Antony van LeeuwenhoekAntony (October 24, 1632 - August 30, 1723), full name Thonius Philips van Leeuwenhoek (pronounced 'vahn Laywenhook') was a Dutch tradesman and scientist from Delft, Netherlands. He is commonly known as "the Father of Microbiology". Born the son of a basket maker, at age 16 he secured an apprenticeship with a Scottish cloth merchant in Amsterdam. He is best known for his work on the improvement of the microscope and for his contributions towards the establishment of microbiology. Using his handcrafted microscopes he was the first to observe and describe single celled organisms, which he originally referred to as animalcules, and which we now refer to as microorganisms. He was also the first to record microscopic observations of muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa and blood flow in capillaries (small blood vessels).
His faith in God and love for His creation undergirded his science. Along with others, he exposed the fallacy of spontaneous generation (abiogenesis), the superstitious belief that life sprung from material objects, such as raw meat "birthing" maggots.

During his lifetime van Leeuwenhoek ground over 500 optical lenses. He also created over 400 different types of microscopes, only nine of which still exist today. His microscopes were made of silver or copper metal frames holding hand-ground lenses. Those that have survived the years are able to magnify up to 275 times. It is suspected, though, that van Leeuwenhoek possessed some microscopes that could magnify up to 500 times. Although he has been widely regarded as a dilettante or amateur, his scientific research was of remarkably high quality.


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