Article ID: CBB779235534

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and measuring the invisible: The context of 16th and 17th century micrometry (2020)


This article explores the impact of 16th and 17th-century developments in micrometry on the methods Antoni van Leeuwenhoek employed to measure the microscopic creatures he discovered in various samples collected from his acquaintances and from local water sources. While other publications have presented Leeuwenhoek's measurement methods, an examination of the context of his techniques is missing. These previous measurement methods, driven by the need to improve navigation, surveying, astronomy, and ballistics, may have had an impact on Leeuwenhoek's methods. Leeuwenhoek was educated principally in the mercantile guild system in Amsterdam and Delft. He rose to positions of responsibility within Delft municipal government. These were the years that led up to his first investigations using the single-lens microscopes he became expert at creating, and that led to his first letter to the Royal Society in 1673. He also took measures to train in surveying and liquid assaying practices existing in his time, disciplines that were influenced by Pedro Nunes, Pierre Vernier, Rene Descartes, and others. While we may never know what inspired Leeuwenhoek's methods, the argument is presented that there were sufficient influences in his life to shape his approach to measuring the invisible.

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Authors & Contributors
Zuidervaart, Huib J.
Joop van Doorn
Willem Reijnders
Henk Smit
Jantien Backer
Allen, Valerie
Studium: Tijdschrift voor Wetenschaps- en Universiteitgeschiedenis
Perspectives on Science
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Janus: revue internationale de l'histoire des sciences, de la medecine, de la pharmacie et de la technique
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Leo S. Olschki Editore
Franz Steiner Verlag
Cambridge University Press
Measuring instruments
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Science and art
Leeuwenhoek, Antoni van
Hooke, Robert
Swammerdam, Jan
Willughby, Francis
Vallisnieri, Antonio
Trembley, Abraham
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
16th century
15th century
14th century
20th century
Delft (Netherlands)
Nuremberg (Germany)
Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Lisbon (Portugal)
Royal Society of London
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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