Wrote Letter XXVIII of 1716-09-28 (AB 327) to Herman Boerhaave

Date: 
September 28, 1716
Standard reference information
Cole's number: 
218
AB/CL number: 
327
AB/CL volume: 
18

Text of the letter in the original Dutch and in English translation in Alle de Brieven / The Collected Letters is not yet available at the DBNL - De Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.

The original manuscript is lost.

In this letter, Leeuwenhoek investigates how trees grow and withstand wind. He observes the stem of the coconut palm and the vessels in its wood and compares them to straw and sugar pears. Continuing his studies on generation in plants, he acknowledges previous errors. He describes the coconut tree’s nut, its pith and vessels, the milk, and the germ and concludes by discussing the benefits of coconut.

In this letter, Leeuwenhoek acknowledges previous errors:

When I discovered a small opening in the small part, which is the pit that lies enclosed in the seed of the coconut and which I observed some years ago, I imagined that the trunk of the coconut tree had a cavity in the middle. But in the part of the said tree no opening at all is to be discerned, so that I have erred in my opinion.

He was puzzled by the large size of the coconut compared to what he saw as its function: nourishing the tiny seed inside. What could be the purpose of so much nourishing substance?

Now when we recall the large size of the coconut and the minuteness of the germ lying within it, then we can say that the coconut is more than two million times larger than the germ lying within. From this, we must conclude that the large size of the nut and the substance lying within, which constitutes a very tasty food and drink, was created to provide mankind with food.

Figures

This letter came with 18 figures. The original drawings have been lost. In Send-Brieven and Epistolae Physiologicae, figures 1-6 have been brought together on one plate facing p. 267 Send-Brieven and p. 260 Epistolae Physiologicae. Figures 7-10 face p. 271 Send-Brieven and p. 266 Epistolae Physiologicae. Figures 11-15 face p. 275 Send-Brieven and p. 270 Epistolae Physiologicae. Figures 16-18 face p. 279 Send-Brieven and p. 274 Epistolae Physiologicae.

In Hoole, the figures 1-17 are to be found as figs 1-17 on Plate VII.