Photoshoot with original Leeuwenhoek microscope and specimens

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Specimens, including cows’ optic nerves, sections of cork and elder, and ‘dried phlegm from a barrel’, prepared and viewed by the early Dutch businessman and scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek have been reunited with one of his original microscopes for a serious photoshoot, recapturing the look of seventeenth century science and recording the moment with high-resolution colour photographs for the first time ever.

Last month, the specimens were sent from the Royal Society in the UK to Leiden and the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave (the Dutch national museum of the history of science and medicine) in their original packages to be reunited with an original Leeuwenhoek microscope. Science and art historian Sietske Fransen, current leader of the Max Planck Research Group ‘Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions’ at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History orchestrated the event. She conducted readings of Leeuwenhoek’s letters, while photographer Wim van Egmond and Rijksmuseum Boerhaave curator Tiemen Cocquyt carefully filmed through the priceless original silver microscope. In combining words and images, the team hope to arrive at a better understanding of Leeuwenhoek’s groundbreaking observations and his use of artists to capture microscope views.

Dutch businessman and scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek from Delft, one of the world’s first microbiologists, had a collection of specimens including cows’ optic nerves, sections of cork and elder, and ‘dried phlegm from a barrel’, which flew back across the North Sea from the Royal Society to Leiden and the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave—the Dutch national museum of the history of science and medicine–where they were reunited with an original Leeuwenhoek microscope. The museum provided the opportunity for taking photographs through the original microscope, as well as the shooting of moving images.

Although Leeuwenhoek’s specimens have been imaged before, this is the first time that the latest digital techniques have been applied to the surviving specimens.

(Link: phys.org, Portrait of Van Leeuwenhoek by Jan Verkolje (1650-1693))

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