Measuring the Invisible World: The Life and Works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Measuring the Invisible World: The Life and Works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Measuring the Invisible World: The Life and Works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Measuring the Invisible World: The Life and Works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Excerpt

Half a century ago as a young boy at school I first became acquainted with the works of Leeuwenhoek. Some ten years later I bought a copy of his letters published in Dutch and gradually Leeuwenhoek became a friend, as he has become to many other research workers in the field of microscopy. In 1931 the Leeuwenhoek committee of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences was formed and in 1942 I became editor-in-chief of the Collected Letters of A. van Leeuwenhoek. My original interest had now developed into a serious study.

The Leeuwenhoek committee rightly decided to keep to the chronological order of the letters written over a period of fifty years. In most letters Leeuwenhoek discusses a number of subjects and these subjects are often dealt with again in later letters. This of course does not simplify the study of the letters and their subject matter.

My opinion is that it is only possible to form a sound judgment of Leeuwenhoek and his research into various problems by a systematic study and collection of material on each subject. The development of Leeuwenhoek's thought and his methods of solving a problem can thus be more clearly understood. His conclusions are sometimes difficult to understand and experts are often called in to repeat his experiments, frequently with surprising results. Even the original language construction is hard to follow and needs further expert attention. Nevertheless his letters make fascinating reading, though they are bound to lose something in translation despite the best efforts of translators. The translations used are those dating from Leeuwenhoek's period with the assistance of my sister-in-law, Mrs. DOterdoom-Tiemersma.

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