Microbiology is the study of microorganisms. These are living entities too small to be seen with the naked eye. The study seeks strategies to utilize and govern the actions of these organisms by studying their structure, function, and classification. But do you know who is known as the Father of Microbiology and what was his contributions to science?
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was a Dutch Button seller who built an eyeglass ten times more powerful than the microscope at the time. He also discovered millions of microorganisms in a single drop of water and is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Microbiology.”
Who was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek?
Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek was born on October 24, 1632, in Delft, Netherlands. He was baptized as Thonis on November 4th of the same year. Philips Antonisz van Leeuwenhoek, Antonie’s father, was a basket maker who died when Antonie was just five years old. Margaretha, his mother, came from a wealthy brewing family. She remarried painter Jacob Jansz Molijn. Margriet, Geertruyt, Neeltje, and Catharina were Antonie’s four older sisters.
In July 1654, Leeuwenhoek married Barbara de Mey, with whom he had one surviving daughter, Maria. They had four other children who died in infancy. He returned to Delft the following year, where he would live and study for the rest of his life.
In the 1650s, he started a drapery shop, which he managed for the rest of his life. Leeuwenhoek remarried in 1671 to Cornelia Swalmius, with whom he had no children with after his wife died in 1666.
His standing in Delft has improved over time. He was appointed chamberlain for the assembly room of the Delft sheriffs in the city hall in 1660, a position he would retain for nearly 40 years. In 1669, the court of Holland hired him as a land surveyor; at some point, he coupled it with another municipal employment, as the official wine-gauger of Delft, in control of the city’s wine imports and taxation. (Source: Biology Libre Texts)
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s Study on Microscopy
Leeuwenhoek wanted to see the quality of the thread better than what was feasible with the magnifying lenses of the time while running his draper shop. Although there are few records of his early activity, he developed an interest in lensmaking. By pulling the hot segment of a short rod of soda-lime glass apart with a burning flame, two long whiskers of glass can be created.
Then a tiny, high-quality glass lens is formed by reinserting the end of one whisker into the flame. Significantly, photos showing the short glass stem characteristic of this lens manufacturing method were acquired in a May 2021 neutron tomography analysis of a high-magnification Leeuwenhoek microscope. He also created ground lenses for lower magnifications. He allegedly persuaded others to believe grinding was his primary or only lens production process to keep his methods secret.
Plant cell descriptions were found in micrographia. It was a mystery why grapes could be converted into wine, milk into cheese, or food might decay before Van Leeuwenhoek discovered microbes in 1675. Leeuwenhoek did not link these processes and microbes, but he did find that forms of life were not apparent to the naked eye by using a microscope. The finding of Leeuwenhoek, together with subsequent studies by Spallanzani and Pasteur, put a stop to the long-held assumption that life originated spontaneously from non-living components during the spoiling process. (Source: Biology Libre Texts)