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The Microscope of Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek (replica of Utrecht University Museum Example)

In Use: circa 1668-1723

Leeuwoenhoek Microscope

Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, the greatest microscopist of his time, is known to have constructed microscopes very similar to that shown here. This replica was assembled from a kit in the last years of the 20th century by the author. It is similar to an example in the Utrecht Museum. This microscope measures only about 3 long in greatest dimension (edge of longest thumbscrew to far edge of main plate). The rectangular plates measure only about 1 inch (25 mm) by 46.5 mm. It consists of two thin brass plates, between which is sandwiched a small, spherical round high-power lens. The lens is held in place by dimples on each plate. The plates are held together by 2 rivets and the screw supporting the L-shaped support. The rest of the microscope consists of a simple attachment to hold the specimen. The long thrumbscrew, which is threaded through the L-shaped support, controls vertical motion of the specimen held on the pointed spike. The L-shaped support is held in place by a thumbscrew which passes though both plates and like the rivets above, holds the two plates together. The plates are about 1/2 mm thick each. The horizontal movement of the spike is in an arc with its axis through the L-shaped support at the bottom; this arc of horizontal movement is illustrated in the middle image. Finally the spike can rotate via a tiny knob. The specimen can therefore be partially rotated. For diagrams showing the movements of this type of microscope, please see the pages of one of the other examples on this site. In use the microscope must be held very close to the eye. Since it is held in the hand, one must be able to hold it steady and have reasonably good eyesight to be able to use it to full advantage. Although Van Leeuwenhoek's microscopes ranged from about 40 to over 250 power, this one is about 100 power. There is some indirect evidence that he made some microscopes of over 400 power, though none are extant.

For the history of Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek and his microscopes, please see the History section of the Leiden replica.

1. Beads of Glass: Leeuwenhoek and the early microscope, edited by Dr Brian Bracegirdle, published by the Museum Boerhaave, 1983
3. What Were the Missing Leeuwenhoek Microscopes Really Like?,Ford, Brian J. Proc Roy Microscopical Soc. 18 118-124. 1983.