Francis Aston wrote Letter L-123 of 26 February 1683 about problems translating his letters and opposition to his views

February 26, 1683

No manuscript is known. A copy of the present letter is in London, Royal Society, Letter Book Original, 8.130, 3 p. The date is New Style, which was ten days ahead of the Old Style date of 16 February used in Londen by Aston. 

In this letter, Francis Aston accounts for L.’s recent letters and asks him to annotate or translate “terms of art” in his letters. He predicts opposition to L.’s position on the role of sperm in reproduction and invites L. to investigate colors.

Leeuwenhoek refers to the present letter in two other letters, quoting Aston in one of them.

Letter L-128 of 16 July 1683 to Christopher Wren

Mr Francis Aston, secretary of the Royal Society, on the 16th/26th Febr. 1682/83 wrote to tell me i.a. that my theory of animal generation through male semen is very ingenious but that I shall be contradicted by many all over the world. That is exactly what I thought, for the world is prejudiced in favour of the ovary.

Letter 76 [39] L-135 of 17 September 1683 to Francis Aston

At the end of your letter of 16/26 Febr. 16 82/83 you write: ‘for the present I cannot think of anything that is more worthy of your speculations (if you are not engaged in others) than the brilliancy of various colours, either in powders or in solid bodies, or the various hues of one and the same colour, or whether the colour is present only in one part of the wool which seems to be coloured in all its parts, etc.’

Since then, dear sir, I have given my mind to this and although I fear that I shall not carry this to a succesful end, I shall, however, again apply myself to it.

Leeuwenhoek’s Dutch is a fair translation of Aston’s English below; either Leeuwenhoek had help with the translation or he was learning enough English himself. For similar instances of a direct quotation from one of Aston’s letters, see the Remarks to Letter L-124 of 9 March 1683 from L. to Aston and to Letter L-140 of 11 October 1683 from Aston to L. For another such instance, see Letter L-117 of 20 March 1682 from Robert Hooke to Leeuwenhoek.

See the Remarks to Letter L-130 of 27 August 1683 for the Royal Society’s reception of this letter.


Letter Book Original supplement 4 GH pp. 397-98

Mr. Aston to Leewenhoeck in Answer
to his to Sr. Christ. Wren and inviting him
to go in search of Colours

Your letter of the 22th of January last came safely to the hands of Sr. Christopher Wren, who imparted it to the Society, and intends to return you his particular thanks. In the mean time I am ordered to signifie to you our Acknowledgments for the Great pains you take in prosecuting the Improvement of Natural knowledg (being the one for which our Society was instituted) As also for your Diligence in writing, without which we could not be partaking of the Industry of many worthy members of our Society living in Several renist? parts of the World. The Observations you mention as formerly sent, have for the most part of them been printed in some of the Transactions, but because you seem not to have read them, I desire you to let me know, what you have since no. 137 (which was the time that Mr. OldernburG dyed, and I will take care to supply you with the rest the first convenience.

Your Observations about wood have not been printed, but are now in a Way of being published in a month or two. I must now desire you for my own Ease in translating your language (which I understand but as a Forreighner) as also for the better comprehending your sense, that when ever you name a Term of Art, or thing out of Common use, you would explain it in the Margin, either by a word of some other Language or a circumlocution of your own. Your Generation by an Animal in Semine Masculo is very ingenious but will find opposers in the World till some persons have convinced themselves by Anatomy (from which all proofs must be drawn) either of its reconsileableness to Eggs, or the totall uselessness of that called an Egg. Your Account of the Globules of liquours and the make of a muscle having been so particularly examined, I cannt think of any thing at present might better deserve your thoughts (if you are not engaged in some other Speculation) than the Appearances of severall Colours, whether in their powders, or more solid bodies, as silk or cloth that are coloured with one or severall Colours. Whether the Colour lye but in a few places of a hair of wool that seems all coloured etc. I name no more, as leaving the contrivance to your self, but rather beg your pardon for the liberty I take in proposing and one re London Feb 16th 1682/3