(October 24, 1632 – August 26, 1723)

Like Michael Faraday, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek had little education. He was an artisan whose lens-making business transformed into a research scientist. He made and sold variety of lenses, whose primary uses were as telescopes and reading-magnifiers. Having crafted these glasses for a long while, he decided to engage in amateur investigations. His observations of bacteria (which he called animacules) made him the first person known to have seen these microorganisms. As a result, it had him being referred to as the “first microbiologist” and “father of microbiology”. Van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes were rudimentary: with estimated magnifying powers of between 200x and 300x. Notwithstanding, they were powerful enough to grant him visual access into a hitherto unknown microbial world. Other cells he examined ranged from simple unicellular spermatozoa to complex multicellular muscles, fungi and arthropods. He meticulously documented his findings: many of which he later shared (as letters) with the London Royal Society. Being an artisan with little education meant that he could only write in his native Dutch. But the significance of his works was such that the Royal Society had them translated into Latin and English, before publishing them. Those publications brought him so much fame that dignitaries like Gottfried Leibniz, Russia’s Czar Peter the Great, Britain’s co-monarchs William III (of Orange) and Queen Mary II met him. Alongside numerous honors, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Leeuwenhoek Medal, the bacterial genus Leeuwenhoekiella, the 2766 Leeuwenhoek asteroid, and the 125-kilometer-wide Leeuwenhoek lunar crater are named after him.


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