Eye on nature
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) was a textile merchant from Delft. Every day, he used a magnifying glass to seek out irregularities in cotton cloth. As a result, he became interested in the blowing and grinding of lenses. His interest in nature caused him to direct his lenses to something other than cotton. And a whole new world opened up. To him, and to the rest of the world.
Without interfering with himself
Van Leeuwenhoek is also well known for his drawings and descriptions of (human) sperm cells. Modest as he was, he was quick to report that he made these observations ‘without interfering with himself’. He made his own microscopes. He placed his specimens on a pin under the lens.
For every new specimen, he made a new microscope – he eventually had around 500 of them. Unfortunately, only a few of them still exist. A replica of one is on display in Micropia.
Now, more than three centuries further, we have still uncovered only a fraction of the micro-world. Less than 1% of the estimated 100 million types have been identified. So there’s clearly a lot more discovering to do.