Wrote Letter L-491 of a few years before 1713 to Jan Meerman how barley is filling, but provides little nourishment, also about a membrane in the barley

January 1, 1713
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This letter is known only by reference in another letter.

Leeuwenhoek wrote to Meerman about how barley is filling, but provides little nourishment. He also wrote about a membrane in the barley.

Letter 298 [III] L-492 of 28 February 1713 to Jan Meerman

These said discoveries reminded me of the membranes which I discovered a few years ago in the barley, when I wrote to Your Honour, at the time when the prices of corn were very high, that barley did indeed fill the stomach, but provided little nourishment, a subject on which I happened to be thinking.

Leeuwenhoek wrote about barley most recently in Letter L-356 of 9 June 1699 to the Royal Society. That letter was not published in Philosophical Transactions, so Meerman most likely read it when Leeuwenhoek published it in 1702 in Sevende Vervolg der Brieven. Prior to that, the two letters that examine barley in detail are both addressed to the Royal Society: Letter L-188 of 13 June 1687 and Letter L-199 of 24 August 1688. In none of them does he discuss barley’s ability to provide nourishment.

This is the first of three known letters that Leeuwenhoek wrote to Jan Frans Meerman (1659-1738). Meerman lived on the Oude Delft in Leeuwenhoek’s neighborhood on Delft’s west side. They worked together in Delft’s Stadhuis (city hall) from 1678, when Meerman joined the Veertigraad (city council), until he retired at age 70 in 1714. From 1687 to 1691, Meerman was a magistrate, so he would have interacted with Leeuwenhoek often.

The other two letters from Leeuwenhoek to Meerman were written while Meerman was one of Delft’s mayors: Letter L-492 of 28 February 1713 and Letter L-493 of 14 March 1714, both in L.’s Send-Brieven.