Henry Oldenburg wrote Letter L-057 to Leeuwenhoek, asking him to examine the skin of Moors and enclosing Philosophical Transactions no. 136

August 7, 1677

This letter, now lost, was Oldenburg's final letter to Leeuwenhoek. He wrote it on Juy 28 O.S., which was August 7 in Delft. We know of it only from Leeuwenhoek's reply in early October, when Oldenburg had already been dead for a month.

According to Leeuwenhoek's reply, this letter asked him to examine the skin of Moors. It was delivered by Henig Brand, as a cover letter for Philosophical Transactions no. 136, which Brand delivered to Leeuwenhoek. It contained a translated excerpt from Letter L-056 of 14 May 1677 to Oldenburg.

This letter is calendared as Letter 3122 in Hall and Hall, The Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg, vol. XIII, July 1676 – July 1681, p. 330.

It was not until 1684 that Leeuwenhoek found an opportunity to examine some skin that he scraped from the arm of a 13-year-old Moorish girl, as he reported in Letter L-147 of 14 April 1684 to Francis Aston.

This is the final letter to Leeuwenhoek from Oldenburg, who died on 5 September 1677. Not knowing that, Leeuwenhoek addressed Letter L-058 of 5 October 1677 to Oldenburg.

For Hennig Brand, the Hamburg alchemist who discovered phosphorus, see the Biog. Reg., idem, vol. 2, p. 441.


Letter L-058 of 5 October 1677 to Henry Oldenburg

On the 11th of September Dr. Brants delivered to me your welcome letter of July 28th ultimo and also Nr. 136 of the Transactions containing my slight observations on the brain, flesh, spinal marrow, moxa and cotton, for which I express my heartfelt thanks. I showed some of my observations to that gentleman and afterwards also to some German gentlemen directed to me by the before-mentioned Mr. Brants. You say in your letter that you wish I would closely examine the skin of Moors, also called negroes.