Van Leeuwenhoek microscope to be auctioned

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One of only three surviving silver microscopes of the Father of microbiology, Renaissance scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), will be sold on April 8 at an auction at Christie’s in London, writes De Telegraaf (Dutch). The auction house expects to sell the silver device for somewhere between 75,000 and 105,000 euro.

The other two surviving Leeuwenhoek microscopes are at the Deutsches Museum in Munich and the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden.

Van Leeuwenhoek built his own microscopes, superior to what was available at the time (the first microscope was invented in Middelburg seven years before his birth), but kept the secret to his lenses meticulously hidden, and only in the 1950s did scientists manage to reconstruct them. It turned out that rather than grinding lenses, Van Leeuwenhoek seems to have used a glass fusing method, which allowed him to quickly make a microscope, of which he constructed around 400 during his lifetime.

The Internet Archive has The Select Works of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, translations into English of Van Leeuwenhoek’s many observations, unfortunately without his drawings. Fascinating stuff, almost like being alive in the 21st century.

The silver microscope that will be sold at Christie’s was used by Van Leeuwenhoek to discover sperm cells. The current owner found it during the 1970s among old laboratory equipment.

Portrait of Van Leeuwenhoek by Jan Verkolje (1650-1693).

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    Comment by Adrian Thysse, FCD — March 27, 2009 @ 12:42 am

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