Still going strong: Leeuwenhoek at eighty

Anderson, D.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek
106:3–26 (Special Issue: June 2014)
Springer International Publishing


At age 80, Antony van Leeuwenhoek was a world-famous scientist who came from a prosperous Delft family with a heritage of public service. He continued that tradition by serving in paid municipal offices. Self-taught, he began his scientific career in his 40s, when he began making hundreds of tiny single-lens microscopes.

Pioneering the use of now-common microscopic techniques, he was the first human to see microbes and microscopic structures in animals, plants, and minerals. Over 50 years, he wrote only letters, more than 300 of them, and published half of them himself. More than a hundred were published in translation in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions.

Today, Leeuwenhoek is considered in the lesser rank of scientists and is not well known outside of his homeland. Recent archival research in Delft has contributed new information about his life that helps to contextualize his science, but much remains to be learned.

Available online (.pdf) at

In his introduction, Celebrating the 80th anniversary of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek: a special issue, editor Iain Sutcliffe wrote:

In this issue, reflecting our historic Dutch roots, we include an appropriately titled article “Still going strong: Leeuwenhoek at eighty” that brings new insights into the scientific contribution made by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in his later years.