Posted on Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Antonie van Leeuwenhoek!


It began with a hefty dose of imagination, a glass pearl, and some strands of fabric.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the very first microbiologist never intended to be the world’s first microbiologist. He was actually a tradesman who had never studied science!

From the time he was 16, he apprenticed in a linen-draper’s shop. Soon he became a merchant because he worked diligently. He developed a fascination for the small world that our eyes alone cannot see while working with fabric, using pearls of glass to observe the fine weave of linen.

He developed more than 200 microscopes during his lifetime and made many important discoveries including the first observations of bacteria which he called “animalcules” in 1674, “animals so small, in my sight, that I judged that even if 100 of these very wee animals lay stretched out one against another, they could not reach the length of a grain of coarse sand”.

During his lifetime, he made many discoveries and observations that he carefully documented and illustrated. He died a very old man who accomplished his important work, a work that inspired generations to follow in his footsteps..

So what better way to celebrate the birthday of this man of science (October, 24, 1632) than to create a close observation of something from the micro-world? You can begin with a microscope or, because we live in the 21st century, a Google image!

This amazing drawing of cocci (bacteria that can lead to diseases such as strep throat) was done by former apprentice Marlo. What makes this observation incredible is the detail she included. So did she complete this in 15 minutes? No way! Do you think it took over an hour? One sitting? Two sittings? The answer is unknown. But I can say with certainty that Marlo dedicated sincere concentration to this accomplishment. The reward is, well, obvious!

Anyone can create an observational drawing, think Dory’s song: “Just keep swimming!”

Leave a Reply