Who Was Anton Van Leeuwenhoek?

Anton Van Leeuwenhoek was a self-taught Dutch naturalist and microscopist who advanced the microscope's design and use. Through microscopes of his own design, Van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria, protozoa, spermatozoa, rotifers, Hydra, Volvox, and aphid parthenogenesis.

Anton Van Leeuwenhoek was born in Delft, Netherlands in 1632. At the age of 16, he became a linen draper's apprentice in Amsterdam. At the linen draper's factory, workers used magnifying glasses to count threads in fabrics in order to determine their quality. Working at the factory inspired Van Leeuwenhoek to grind new lenses with greater magnifications. He eventually designed and built his own microscopes, which he used to study the smaller aspects of nature, including life in a drop of water, blood cells and bacteria. Van Leeuwenhoek's microscopes weren't the traditional microscopes of today. Rather, they were elaborate magnifying glasses with high magnification powers and extreme clarity.

An acquaintance informed the Royal Society of London of Van Leeuwenhoek's developments, and the Royal Society elected him as a fellow in 1680. Throughout his life, Leeuwenhoek continued to study nature and write letters to the Royal Society, informing them of his discoveries. In a letter dated June 12, 1716, Van Leeuwenhoek wrote about his desire to share his knowledge and discoveries with the world.