Pages tagged student

Overview: Leeuwenhoek's Education and Training

Leeuwenhoek is sometimes portrayed as uneducated and thus self-taught. He did not go to school as a child to learn to read and write Latin. He did not go to a university. He did not travel or learn other languages. For what he ended up doing with his life, however, fresh eyes unclouded by the academic dogma of the time were very helpful.

Childhood Education in the Dutch Republic

How did the system work? In Delft, children as young as three were sent to ABC schools (ABCscholen) until they were seven. Then they moved to either a Latin school, which was in a separate building and of which there was only one in Delft, or to one of the dozens of schools conducted in private homes. About two-thirds of the teachers were men. While reading, writing, and arithmetic were primary, other languages, especially German and French, were common. Also, a given teacher often had a special interest that would attract students and their tuition-paying parents. Students stayed in these schools until they were 12 or 14, depending on the curriculum.

How to be a blacksmith

What did Leeuwenhoek have to learn in order to use his little lenses? Leeuwenhoek grew up in a family of basket makers. He apprenticed in the cloth trade. To make his lenses, he had to learn to grind and polish glass. To make the devices to hold the lenses, he had to learn blacksmithing.

How to be a Surveyor

The Dutch made use of every bit of land that they were able to reclaim from the water. Because the owners of this land all had to cooperate with each other to keep the interconnected water drainage system working, they could not be distracted by petty boundary disputes. The Dutch were at the same time developing a strong legal system to enforce deeds and contracts. The property system relied on the accuracy of the surveyors' observations and the validity of their mathematical calculations. Surveyors (landmeters) had to be admitted to practice by the Court of Holland after their skills were certified by oral examination. Candidates were self-taught, but they may have apprenticed with an admitted surveyor.

How to be a Wine Gauger

In the world before widely standardized measurements, that is, before the Industrial Revolution, standards were set locally. The need for standards was driven by economics and commerce, not science. Things that could be counted, like the number of baskets of porcelain dishes on a boat or the number of threads in a fabric, were not the problem. Merchants had been counting and weighing for thousands of years. As an apprentice merchant in Amsterdam around 1650, Leeuwenhoek probably learned to use a low-power lens to count threads.

How to dissect animals and plants

The Dutch were interested in dissection of human bodies for both forensic and scientific purposes. City anatomists Cornelis 's Gravesande Collectors of rarities and curiosities noted in Engel who lived in Delft during Leeuwenhoek's lifetime:

Leeuwenhoek as Surveyor

In 1669, at age 37, Leeuwenhoek passed an oral examination by mathematician Genesis Baen in the "art of Geometry". Record of this certification is found in 12de Haarlemse Memoriaalboek (memorandum book) of February 4, 1669.

Records management

When Leeuwenhoek began making and using lenses he had, of course, no idea what they would reveal or where his observations would lead him. Before long, he had to develop what today are called laboratory management skills.