Bridge to the Past – The Leeuwenhoek Microscope

I know I promised to stay away until fall, but this came up at Small Things Considered and I thought it deserved attention – recreating the past to better understand the present:

The Ten Minute Leeuwenhoek Microscope

by Patrick Keeling¹


Patrick melts a glass tube (while looking away!) to make
a Leeuwenhoek microscope at the UBC Advanced
Molecular Biology Labs High School Science Teacher
Conference (October, 2008). Source.

I was on leave from teaching for a couple of years. The summer before re-starting my third year Protistology course I began to think about some things I wanted to change. One thing I wanted to do was to add a section on the history of microbiology to put things into perspective and hopefully connect students with the material a bit. My colleague, Max Taylor, had a replica of a van Leeuwenhoek microscope that he once showed to me, and I thought it would be fun to make one as close to the original design as possible to show the class what it was like. I did some superficial snooping around about how it was built, including finding the original paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society where he described the design. I realized it would be pretty straightforward, including making a lens that was pretty close to the ones he would have used.

For the complete article and links to more on home-made Leeuwenhoek microscopes, please visit The Ten Minute Leeuwenhoek Microscope at Small Things Considered.

¹Patrick Keeling is a scholar of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Evolutionary Biology Program, and assistant professor, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia.


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