Free online from the Annals of Science, this two part look into Leeuwenhoek’s zoological researches.—Part I by F. J. Cole, of Reading University, 1937.
Leeuwenhoek’s observations were recorded and written up as they
were made, and, except for an occasional postscript, he does not appear
to have recognized the importance of a final revision. This, however,
has one great advantage. It enables us to trace the origin and growth
of the ideas in his own mind. The interest and significance of this
point is particularly evident in his work on plant and animal parasites,
where we can follow the evolution of the correct solution of the problem
as observation and inference expanded under his scrutiny. In the
sections of this review, therefore, Leeuwenhoek’s studies have been
followed in chronological sequence, and the dates given are those which
appear on the letters themselves, and are not those of publication 1.
There is much repetition in Leeuwenhoek’s letters. He refers to
this himself in Letter XXXII (1717), and explains that he reconsiders
and repeats his observations because by so doing he not only checks
his previous work but may light upon further discoveries. This, however,
does not explain why a statement should be repeated in the same letter.
No one can study these letters without being struck by the astonishing
intuition which Leeuwenhoek exhibits in the interpretation of natural
phenomena. He is always ready to speculate, even in matters on which
the imperfect knowledge and technique of his time gave him very little
assistance, and in most cases he has proved to be a sure guide. By
combining detailed observation with shrewd interpretation he often
develops an argument logically step by step until an irresistible conclusion
Also available free: Leeuwenhoek’s Zoological Reseaches II.
While you are at it, the complete Annals of Science, from 1936 to 2009, are online free now…
These online articles, and those from many other journals, will remain free until 31 January, 2010 ONLY, so download the pdf’s while you can!