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Chapter 1 : Leeuwenhoek Discovers a New Galaxy of Organisms

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Leeuwenhoek Discovers a New Galaxy of Organisms, Page 1 of 2

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Abstract:

Rational explanation of infectious disease and other manifestations of microbial life had to await two developments: acceptance of the concept that "invisible microbes" existed and tangible evidence of their reality. The first evidence that we are surrounded by multitudes of microbes was provided by observations made by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek with primitive microscopes in 1674. The historic discovery revealed not only the physical reality of living microbes, but also their diverse nature. These momentous advances, which are discussed in this chapter, illustrate one of the common characteristics of many waves of new discoveries in biological science, namely, the use of new or improved experimental techniques for making observations. Leeuwenhoek can be regarded as one of the great explorers of all time—indeed, he discovered a whole new world by examining an enormous range of natural samples. In the course of his studies, he described for the first time the sperm cells of animals, including humans, and he was also the first person to recognize that in the fertilization process, the sperm enters the egg cell. Leeuwenhoek’s observations were all described (in the Dutch language) in about 300 letters, 190 of which were addressed to the Royal Society of London.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Leeuwenhoek Discovers a New Galaxy of Organisms, p 1-6. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch1
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Figures

Image of Figure 1
Figure 1

(a) Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. (b) A replica of one of Leeuwenhoek's microscopes. The object to be viewed was placed on the pointed tip at the end of the screw. The lens is in the small circle just to the left of the screw tip.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Leeuwenhoek Discovers a New Galaxy of Organisms, p 1-6. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch1
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Image of Figure 2
Figure 2

Leeuwenhoek's drawings of bacteria in the human mouth, published in 1684. Even from these crude drawings we can recognize several kinds of common bacteria. Those lettered A, B, and F are rod shaped; E, spherical or coccus shaped; G, a spirochete (spiral-shaped bacterium). C....D is the path that motile bacterium B was observed to take.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Leeuwenhoek Discovers a New Galaxy of Organisms, p 1-6. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch1
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Download as Powerpoint

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