Robbert Gordon

Birth or Baptism date: 
October 13, 1651

When he was a medical student in Leiden in 1677, Gordon observed microbes through Leeuwenhoek's lenses and described what he saw in a letter to the Royal Society.

Gordon was born in Bergen op Zoom. Ten years after he witnessed Leeuwenhoek's little animals, he married in Rijswijk into a prominent family from Delft and Den Haag. His father-in-law Willem Salden was a clergyman whose portrait was painted three times by Johannes Verkolje.

As secretary to Prinz Georg von Hessen-Darmstadt (not. v. Oerle, Breda 1693) to someone called Hollsteijn-Pleun (not. ? 1696), Gordon lived outside of Holland.

We do not know why Leeuwenhoek involved Gordon in his attempt to convince the Royal Society of the validity of his observations of little animals in pepper water.


Dobell (p. 176) mistakenly identifies him as Sir Robert Gordon (1647-1704), knighted in 1673, member of the Scottish parliament in 1674, and member of the Convention of the Estates of Scotland in 1678. His first wife died in April of 1677, leaving him with an infant daughter. It is unlikely that in June of 1677 he was a medical student in Leiden.

Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters, vol. 2, p. 449, follows this error: "ROBERT GORDON was the eldest son of the ‘baronet of Gordonstoun in Drainie, Elginshire’. He travelled a good deal on the continent and carried on a correspondence with BOYLE concerning mechanical and chemical subjects. He built an excellent airpump, but let his invention rest. He was a great favourite of King JAMES II, and was made a member of the Royal Society in 1686."

These errors may be why some writers state that the Royal Society sent a contingent of respected people to Delft in 1677 to verify what Leeuwenhoek was doing. In fact, Leeuwenhoek chose his witnesses.