pastor Petrus Gribius wrote Letter L-589 to James Jurin announcing Leeuwenhoek's death

August 29, 1723
Collected Letters volume: 

Gribius dated this letter in late August, but it was not read at a meeting of the Royal Society until 7 November O.S. (Journal Book 13, p. 315).

Petrus Gribius (1651-1739) became a pastor in Delft in 1681, and preached there for 53 years until he was given emeritus status in September 1734. In 1684, he married Debora van der Heul, a descendant of a wealthy family of gunpowder manufacturers. They had one daughter, Maria Gribius who married Abraham van Bleyswijk one year before L. addressed three letters to Van Bleyswijk, which were published in Send-Brieven.


ms. Royal Society, no. 1214; G.2.3

Dobell's Little Animals (pp. 94-96) has a translation of this letter from the Latin. It differs slightly from the translation in Collected Letters, vol. 19.

I venture to interrupt you, most distinguished Sir, in your very urgent engagements and duties, solely because I am moved thereto by the tears of Maria, the only daughter of her great father Antony van Leeuwenhoek; who, while he neither feared nor desired his last day, peacefully concluded it upon the 26th of August; being then over ninety, and thus, having reached a rare old age, neither unripe nor half-ripe, though verily more than mature. For 'tis with man as with pear or apple, on a tree laden with fruits, some whereof it letteth fall thickly and perforce, while others, when they be more than ripe, drop singly of their own accord. As the Poet elegantly saith:

Ten thousand fates of death do every way beset us,
and these no mortal may escape nor avoid.

Yet 'tis our duty to submit to the wise dispensations of God, Whom we wrongfully defraud of His rights unless we humbly suffer each one of ours to live and die according to His will.

The notion possessed our good old man that he lay a-dying of a distemper of his diaphragm, though in fact 'twas of his lungs; and their gradual obstruction, turning slowly into a suppuration, reached such a pitch that he cast up purulent sputa and died when the lung had festered, on the sixth day after he took to his bed. So at least say our Physicians, who are highly skilled in such matters: for my part, I know nought of diseases; a cobbler should stick to his lasts.

A little cabinet, furnished with some most select glasses (commonly called microscopa), to be given after his death to the Royal Society, will be sent to you within six or seven weeks by his daughter, as she hath informed me.

Amongst us he has left a reputation truly good, and enshrined in the Temple of Memory, by virtue of his indefatigable inquiries into Nature. To you, most noble Sir, who hold an honorable office, and one worthy of your deserts, I wish many a long year of life, that for the public benefit you may live to equal, or even excel, those grand old men of Troy.