Using a Replica of Leeuwenhoek’s Microscope to Teach the History of Science and to Motivate Students

Sepel, L., E. Loreto and J. Rocha
CBE-Life Sciences Education
8: Winter 2009, 338-343
American Society of Cell Biology


The history of science should be incorporated into science teaching as a means of improving learning and also to increase the students’ understanding about the nature of science. In biology education, the history of microscopy deserves a special place. The discovery of this instrument not only opened a new and fantastic microworld but also led to the development of one unifying principle of biological sciences (i.e., cell theory). The microscopes of Leeuwenhoek and Hooke opened windows into the microworld of living organisms.

In the present work, the knowledge of these themes was analyzed in a group of students beginning an undergraduate biology course. Our data suggest that the history of microscopy is poorly treated at the secondary school level. We propose a didactic activity using a replica of Leeuwenhoek’s microscope made with Plexiglas and a lens obtained from a key chain laser pointer or from a broken CD drive. The proposed activity motivated students to learn about microscopy and helped them to appreciate scientific knowledge from a historical perspective.