Brian J Ford research summary:
History of the Microscope

The Leeuwenhoek Image

RBC's (Leeuwenhoek view)Cork section (Leeuwenhoek view)

Two years ago (in 1999) we began to digitise our photographic archives, allowing us to reproduce
the Leeuwenhoek view of life through the microscope as he would have observed it. This
research reaffirms that the image quality of simple microscopes is surprisingly high.
During the research at Utrecht, one of the most exciting images was obtained
of an unmounted and unstained blood smear (left). The erythrocytes themselves, shown in the
picture as rounded anucleate cells, are clearly resolved. Most interesting is the polymorphuclear
granulocyte (white cell) shown top, right of centre. Its lobed nucleus (which is clearly
visible in a selective enlargement) can be discerned, a remarkable result
for a single-lensed microscope of the late seventeenth century. On the right we see Leeuwenhoek's
view of one of his own cork sections. The detail of these cell walls is impressive. Note the
colours of chromatic aberration towards the edges of this micrograph (top right), which is typical
of that seen when using single lensed microscopes.

Go to:

  • An Introduction to research on the Leeuwenhoek specimens
  • Extract from recent lecture and 140-item interim bibliography
  • Full bibliography of this work with over 300 items
  • Explaining how the Leeuwenhoek specimens were handled
  • What the Leeuwenhoek microscope can reveal
  • Representative scanning electron micrographs of the specimens
  • The clear digtised images that a single lens can create
  • Selective enlargement of the polymorphonuclear leucocyte
  • See some of the Leeuwenhoek microscopes