Antony van Leeuwenhoek

1632 - 1723
Delft, the Dutch Republic

portrait of Antony van Leeuwenhoek

Portrait by Jan Verkolje



What you will find here



The life of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, cloth merchant and civil servant, citizen of Delft. Portraits of him. His homes and his legacy as well as a timeline of events in his life.

The Leeuwenhoek name: How to pronounce it

Where Leeuwenhoek's biographers say he lived


Almost a thousand documented events in the history of Delft and the life of Leeuwenhoek and his family, starting in 1246.

On September 30, 1676, he was appointed curator of the estate of Vermeer's widow

A week later, he wrote the letter that made him famous


Over a hundred close relatives of Leeuwenhoek. Timelines of the documented facts about their lives and property holdings. Featuring the half dozen most influential women in his life. Grouped by family: Leeuwenhoek, de Meij, Swalmius, de Molijn, van den Berch, and Hogenhouck.

How prosperous was his family?


His daughter Maria

Civic career

Leeuwenhoek's education and training. How he supported his family as a merchant, City Court official, and City inspector of liquid imports and exports.

Public Service of Leeuwenhoek, his family, and his neighbors and colleagues

Were his jobs sinecures?

Scientific career

A brief accounting of some of the aspects of Leeuwenhoek's science, his lenses and people who influenced him, other microscopists, philosophers, and members of the Royal Society.

How he constructed his microscopes


His cabinet of wonders


Leeuwenhoek wrote only letters, hundreds of them, including 285 with scientific observations. These 285 letters, his complete scientific output, are our only direct access to his work and ideas. Divided into seven periods according to how he self-published them. How to find your way among the various editions and translations.

How many letters did Leeuwenhoek write?


Why did Leeuwenhoek publish his own letters?

Delft in Holland

Life in the heart of the world's most prosperous and learned country. Views and maps, timelines of Delft's history. How Delft was governed and Leeuwenhoek's role in it. The buildings in his neighborhood. His contemporaries. The property in and around Delft owned by Leeuwenhoek and members of his family. Life in Leeuwenhoek's Holland through the eyes of its painters.

How prominent was his family?

Leeuwenhoek served as his neighborhood's trash supervisor

Leeuwenhoek wrote about the day he made a startling and unexpected discovery:

In the year 1675, about half-way through September ..., I discovered living creatures in rain, which had stood but a few days in a new tub, that was painted blue within.

This observation provoked me to investigate this water more narrowly; and especially because these little animals were, to my eye, more than ten thousand times smaller than the little animal which Swammerdam has portrayed.

"Living creatures in rain water"? "Ten thousand times smaller"? They had always been there, but no human had ever seen them until that September day almost three hundred and fifty years ago.

  • Who was this man with this chatty writing style about tiny animals?
  • How did he manage to stumble onto this Eden, where he was Adam, surrounded by animals with no names?
  • Why do we remember Antony van Leeuwenhoek today?
  • What can he teach us about how to explore our own worlds?

What do you do when you see things that no one has ever seen before?
Wat doe je als je dingen ziet dat niemand ooit heeft gezien?

New Book

Letter No. 295 of 8 November 1712 to Anthonie Heinsius


Letter No. 327 [XXIV] of 22 May 1716 to Cornelis Spiering

Publisher's summary:

The contents of the letters published here, again show the great range of subjects that occupied Van Leeuwenhoek: from sugar candy, the shape and crystal structure of diamonds, the dissolution of silver crystals in aqua fortis to gold dust from Guinea dissolved in aqua regia and the dissolution and separation of gold, silver, and copper.

Every volume in the Series contains the texts in the original Dutch and an English translation. The great range of subjects studied by Van Leeuwenhoek is reflected in these letters: instruments to measure water, pulmonary diseases; experiments relating to the solution of gold and silver; salt crystals and grains of sand; botanical work, such as duckweed and germination of orange pips; description on protozoa. blood, spermatozoa and health and hygiene, for example and harmfulness of tea and coffee and the benefits of cleaning teeth.

Taylor & Francis - £127.20

Amazon - $195