Hans Sloane wrote Letter L-451 to Leeuwenhoek about not having received letters from him and to introduce visitor Gilbert Burnet

May 4, 1707

This letter is known only by reference in Leeuwenhoek’s reply. The date is New Style, which was eleven days ahead of the Old Style date of 23 April 1707 used by Sloane in London.

In this letter, Hans Sloane wrote to introduce a visitor, Gilbert Burnet, and to note that L. had not written to the Royal Society for a long time.

Because Leeuwenhoek received it “from the hands” of Burnet, Sloane’s letter was probably a letter of introduction. Gilbert Burnet, a Scottish philosopher and historian, had been bishop of Salisbury since 1689. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1664. On 7 July 1707, he visited Leeuwenhoek along with his brother Thomas, the personal physician of Queen Anne.

According to Leiden University’s 1885 Album Studiosorum (Album of students), on 2 August 1707, the Burnet brothers’ sons William Burnet, age 20, Gilbert Burnet, 17, and Thomas Burnet, 14, matriculated at the university, the first two to study theology and the youngest to study law. Young William was already a fellow of the Royal Society and the other two would also go on to become fellows.

The time gap that Sloane referred to was the 11 months that had passed since Leeuwenhoek’s Letter L-448 of 1 June 1706. Not since Sloane became editor, beginning with volume 19 of Philosophical Transactions in 1695, had such a long time passed without a letter from Leeuwenhoek reaching London.


Letter L-455 of 12 July 1707 to the Royal Society

To the Very Noble Sirs, Gentlemen of the Royal Society in London. My last humble letter to you, Very Noble Sirs, was that of the 5th inst.; since then I have received the Transactions Nos 301 to 309, as also a list of the Royal Society, for which I am highly grateful.

I also received, on the 7th inst., via Mr. Burnett, one of the members of the Royal Society, a letter written by Mr. Hans Sloane, dated the 23rd of April 1707, which was very welcome to me and in which this gentleman also intimates that for a long time past no letters have been received from me. I showed several of my discoveries to Mr. Burnett and his brother, and since they wished to see the circulation of the blood, I complied with this, which greatly pleased them.