LEEUWENHOEK, or [[Leuwenhoek, Anthony Van]] (1632-1723), Dutch microscopist, was born at Delft on the 24th of October 1632.
Van Leeuwenhoek figured bacteria as far back as the 17th century, and O.
The Old Church, founded in the 11th century, but in its present form dating from 1476, contains the monuments of two famous admirals of the 17th century, Martin van Tromp and Piet Hein, as well as the tomb of the naturalist Leeuwenhoek, born at Delft in 1632.
Under the influence of the touchstone of strict inquiry set on foot by the Royal Society, the marvels of witchcraft, sympathetic powders and other relics of medieval superstition disappeared like a mist before the sun, whilst accurate observations and demonstrations of a host of new wonders accumulated, amongst which were numerous contributions to the anatomy of animals, and none perhaps more noteworthy than the observations, made by the aid of microscopes constructed by himself, of Leeuwenhoek, the Dutch naturalist (1683), some of whose instruments were presented by him to the society.
Leeuwenhoek, in 1719, made the remarkable discovery, since abundantly confirmed, that many animalculae, notably tardigrades and rotifers, may be completely desiccated and remain in that condition for long periods without losing the power of awaking to active life when moistened with water.
Leeuwenhoek, Epistolae ad Societatem regiam Anglicam (1719); E.
Van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria, and it was soon found that however carefully organic matter might be protected by screens, or by being placed in stoppered receptacles, putrefaction set in, and was invariably accompanied by the appearance of myriads of bacteria and other low organisms. As knowledge of microscopic forms of life increased, so the apparent possibilities of abiogenesis increased, and it became a tempting hypothesis that whilst the higher forms of life arose only by generation from their kind, there was a perpetual abiogenetic fount by which the first steps in the evolution of living organisms continued to arise, under suitable conditions, from inorganic matter.
Antony van Leeuwenhoek appears to be the first to succeed in grinding and polishing lenses of such short focus and perfect figure as to render the simple microscope a better instrument for most purposes than any compound microscope then constructed.
It was not until the 19th century that the microscope, thus early applied by Leeuwenhoek, Malpighi, Hook and Swammerdam to the study of animal structure, was perfected as an instrument, and accomplished for zoology its final and most important service.
Leeuwenhoek, to whom we also owe the discovery of Bacteria and ciliate Infusoria.
Leeuwenhoek described Rotifer vulgaris in 1702, and he subsequently described Melicerta ringens and other species.
Leeuwenhoek found and described some tubicolous species; and during the 18th century a fair number of species were observed, figured and described with names.
Until about 1725 the belief was very prevalent that cochineal was the seed of a plant, but Dr Martin Lister in 1672 conjectured it to be a kind of kermes, and in 1703 Antony van Leeuwenhoek ascertained its true nature by aid of the microscope.