A History of Micro-technique

Bracegirdle, B.
London: Heinemann

Full title

A History of Microtechnique: The Evolution of the Microtome and the Development of Tissue Preparations

This book discusses Leeuwenhoek on only three pages at the beginning. It would be helpful if Bracegirdle had treated Leeuwenhoek's pioneering efforts in microtechnique and histology with as much detail as he could the development after 1830. Selected passages:

The first microscopists were preoccupied with making their microscopes, and paid less attention to specimens,for anything visible was impressive by its sheer novelty once attention was directed towards it by a lens. Relatively little was written at this time. ...

No preparations from the seventeenth century have survived, for it is almost certain that all were only of a temporary kind, for viewing on one occasion only. From the eighteenth century, the only preparations to have come down to use are those sliders made for the amateur. ...

Unfortunately, Leeuwenhoek was secretive about his methods, and in all his writings there is very little about technique. ... If the specimen was liquid, it was spread on thin glass or mica, which was then glued to the needle. This is probably the first use of a smear of a liquid tissue, a technique still widely employed. ... Leeuwenhoek also mounted liquid specimens in capillary tubes: this mount suited his instruments quite well, of course, but ws not widely adopted.

The lists of specimens, and the published work describing them, show clearly that Leeuwenhoek worked in a truly scientific spirit, preparing specimens specifically to pursue a line of enquiry sometimes over many years. He did not always draw what we now know to be the correct conclusions, but he did investigate both sections and fresh material to a far greater extent than any other worker for over a century.