Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and his impact on the history of microscopy

14 - 15 September 2023 09:00 - 17:00 The Royal Society £45 per day (£25 concessions)
Detail from Royal Society EL/L3/69, letter from Leeuwenhoek on rotifers and parasitic worms, November 1704

A celebration of the work of Dutch microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723) and the development of microscopy to the present day.

Three hundred years ago the Dutch microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek died. He had been corresponding with the Royal Society for fifty years. Leeuwenhoek, born in Delft in the Netherlands in 1632, developed himself into one of the most prolific early microscopists. He made his own lenses and small hand-held microscopes which were more versatile than most other devices at the time. With these instruments and his outstanding preparation and observation techniques, he was the first to see and describe red blood cells, bacteria and many other things.

In this conference we will take a close look at Leeuwenhoek’s seventeenth- and eighteenth-century microscopic practices as well as the development of the field of microscopy from his death to the twenty-first century. We will show how Leeuwenhoek was working as part of a large European network of scientists exploring the natural world with microscopes. The papers in this conference will make clear that microscopic practices and the way in which scientists communicated their findings to each other started in Leeuwenhoek’s time and are still used today.

Conference organisers: Dr Sietske Fransen, Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History; Drs Tiemen Cocquyt, Rijksmuseum Boerhaave; Professor Dr Eric Jorink, Leiden University & Huygens Instituut.

Attending this event