Wrote Letter 58 of 1687-09-09 (AB 103) to Members of the Royal Society about ant eggs, larvae and its development, feeding, sting, cocoon and nest

Date: 
September 9, 1687
Standard reference information
Cole's number: 
58
AB/CL number: 
103
AB/CL volume: 
7

Text of the letter in the original Dutch and in English translation from Alle de Brieven / The Collected Letters at the DBNL - De Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.

The original manuscript, written and signed by Leeuwenhoek, is preserved at the Royal Society (MS. 1923, EL.L2.8).


What motivated him?

Curiousity about the world around him. What something happened, he wanted to know exactly what it was. As an off-hand remark in this letter, Leeuwenhoek gave an indication of how long he had been using lenses to investigate nature.

These swellings, which I received from the ants while investigating their reproduction, caused me more pain than they gave me at any other time in the whole of my life, although I have many times been stung by them: For it is now about twenty years ago that, having once been stung hard by the same, I then discovered that the abdomen was provided with a sting.

Twenty years before this letter was written in 1687 was 1667, a year or so after he made a short visit to England. There, he used a lens to look more closely at the chalk on the coast. How powerful were his lenses then? The lens best suited to looking at chalk and at an ant's body would have been much less powerful than the lenses Leeuwenhoek later used for looking at little animals in canal water in the 1670's.