Philosophical Transactions

Author: 
various
Publisher: 
Royal Society
Year: 
1665

Chronology of Leeuwenhoek's articles in Philosophical Transactions.

The Royal Society, a radical, upstart group housed in Gresham College, preached experiment and observation, not theory. The members advocated Francis Bacon's inductive reasoning based on observation and experiment. Their meetings featured live demonstrations of experiments by Curator of Experiments Robert Hooke.

According to Sprat's History, they rejected:

amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style ... bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness, as they can: and preferring the language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants, before that, of Wits and Scholars.

This learned society produced a journal, the first of its kind. Every month, several articles were published and once a year, they were collected into a volume. Around 1,200 of each monthly number were printed and distributed throughout the world. This journal, Philosophical Transactions, was edited and paid for by its founding editor, Henry Oldenburg. It was the one and only place where, at that time, the plain-speaking, monolingual, uncredentialed, non-theoretical foreigner van Leeuwenhoek, very much the outsider, could tell the world about the wriggling, swimming things, the multitude of little animals, that he was seeing through his tiny lenses.

The Royal Society had been meeting for thirteen years when they received Leeuwenhoek's first letter in 1673. The Society had an early triumph with Hooke's Micrographia in 1665 and it survived founding editor Henry Oldenburg's imprisonment for espionage in 1667. Philosophical Transactions was beginning its eighth year of publication in 1673:

giving some accompt of the present undertaking, studies, and labours of the ingenious in many considerable parts of the world.

The next fifty years of Leeuwenhoek's relationship with the Royal Society is divided into seven periods.

After the death of Oldenburg in September 1677, Philosophical Transactions entered a period of turmoil. For 138 (some sources say 136) numbers over 12 volumes, Oldenburg had been the only editor. He relied for manuscripts on his extensive personal international network, he paid for the printing out of his own pocket, and much of the distribution went back out to that personal network, including Leeuwenhoek.

Summary Table

The table below summarizes what I see as seven periods of Leeuwenhoek's publishing career. See the rationale.

The far right column shows the number of articles written by Leeuwenhoek and published in Philosophical Transactions. Note that the number of articles does not equal the number of letters because three letters were split, as noted on the table. Thus, the 116 articles contained excerpts from 113 letters. Other articles contained excerpts from two or three letters with the same title, but the parts were separately dated and are counted here as multiple articles.

Note:

  • many articles were not published in the same period in which they were written.
  • the three volumes for which Edmond Halley was editor, 16, 29, and 30. He did not publish Leeuwenhoek's letters.
Seven Periods
Period -
# articles
Years Philosophical Transactions
Editors
Volumes Numbers #
arts
AvL
1
17 articles
1673
1674
1675
1676
1677-78
Oldenburg
Oldenburg
Oldenburg
Oldenburg, Grew
Grew
8
9
10
11
12
92-100
101-111
112-122
123-132
133-142
* 2
5
2
1
** 7
2
10 articles
1683
1684
1685
1686-1692
Plot
Plot
Plot and Musgrave
Halley
13
14
15
16
143-154
155-166
167-178
179-191
3
*** 3
4
0
3
7 articles
1685-1692
1693
1694
Halley
Waller
Waller
16
17
18
179-191
192-206
207-209
0
*** 7
0
4
24 articles
1694
1695-1697
1698
1699
1700-1701
1702
Waller
Sloane
18
19
20
21
22
23
210-214
215-235
236-247
248-259
260-276
277-279
2
3
1
2
12
4
5
42 articles
1702-1703
1704-1705
1706-1707
1708-1709
1710-1711
1712-1713
Sloane 23
24
25
26
27
28
280-288
289-304
305-312
313-324
325-336
337
3
16
5
11
6
1
6
1 article
1714-1716
1717-1719
Halley 29
30
338-350
351-363
1
0
7
15 articles
1720-21
1722-23
Jurin 31
32
364-369
370-380
6
9
          116

* Letter 1 of 1673-04-28 divided into two articles in vol. 8 no. 94 and no. 97
** Letter 25 of 1678-05-31 divided into two articles in vol. 12 no. 140 and no. 142
*** Letter 39 of 1683-09-17 divided into two articles, one in vol. 14 no. 159, the other in vol. 17 no. 197

Learn more:

The complete run of Philosophical Transactions is available at the Royal Society Publishing's online archive.

A complete set of all the articles in the first 56 volumes (except vols. 38 - 46) of Philosophical Transactions, including all the articles by Leeuwenhoek, in volumes 8 through 32, is available from WikiMedia Commons: Category: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1665-1886).

The Related Letters, listed below under the expandable Learn more, has all of the letters up to 1708 (Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters vols. 1 - 16) that were translated and excerpted in the Royal Society's journal Philosophical Transactions. They were all given a title, often with the information about author and date that we would now add to a title page.

Note that there is not a strict one-to-one correspondence between letters and articles. Several articles contained content from more than one letter. Several letters were spread out over more than one article.

The complete list of articles by year with title.