British Science Week

Wednesday 13th March 2024

To mark British Science Week, we share an image of the College’s copy of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s Arcana naturae ope et beneficio exquisitissimorum microscopiorum detecta (The Secrets of Nature Revealed with the Help and Benefit of the Most Exquisite Microscopes). The book, published in Leiden in 1696, contains a series of letters from Van Leeuwenhoek to the Royal Society in London in which he details observations carried out using his home-made microscopes.

Van Leeuwenhoek, a draper by trade, had developed a way of making lenses using molten glass rather than grinding cold glass, a technological breakthrough which he guarded jealously. His lenses allowed powerful magnification, permitting him to view never-before seen phenomena such as blood cells, cell-structures, microbial forms, and animalcules. He is today famed as ‘the Father of Microbiology’, but he received recognition in his own day, being elected a member of the Royal Society in 1680 alongside Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, and Edmund Halley.

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