Pieter Rabus wrote Letter L-258 asking for Leeuwenhoek’s comments on a letter he had received about caterpillars that were growing in a woman’s ears

June 21, 1695

This letter is known only by reference in Leeuwenhoek’s reply.

In Collected Letters, vol. 11, p. 35, this undated letter to Rabus is dated 21 June or July 1695. However, in the text of his reply, Letter 150 L-263, Leeuwenhoek clearly states that it was Rabus who wrote a letter on “the 21st of last month”.

At some point at the end of 1694 or in 1695, Rotterdam notary, scholar, and editor Pieter Rabus received a letter from Colmar in Germany, according to Rabus’s summary of the letter, but actually in France since the Treaties of Nijmegen in 1679. Rabus sent the summary to Leeuwenhoek for comment in this Letter L-258 on 21 June 1695. Leeuwenhoek must have sent his response, the undated Letter L-263, promptly because Rabus published his summary, titled “Summary of a letter written from Kolmar, containing a rare illness of a woman, who discharged caterpillars from her right ear”, followed by Leeuwenhoek’s response, in the July and August 1695 issue of Boekzaal van Europe. Rabus’s summary is itself summarized by Dr B.C. Damsteegt, emeritus professor of Dutch philology at Leiden University, in n. 1 to Letter L-263 of 21 July 1695 to Rabus, Collected Letters, vol. 11.


Letter 150 L-263 of sometime in late June or early July 1695 to Pieter Rabus

I duly received your welcome letter of the 21st of last month as well as the short contents of a letter written from Colmar and I am bound to say that I cannot understand these events properly. I can imagine indeed that a woman walking in hot weather with bare ears which have not been cleaned for a long time may get a fly on, or in the entrance to, her ears, which fly lays there one or two eggs, from which come forth maggots or worms, which may be fully grown in 8 to 10 days, and this out of small amounts of substance, because nearly all the food used by maggots coming forth from some flies is used for the growth of their bodies and they void very small amounts of excrements.