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ANTONIE VAN LEEUWENHOEK (1632-1723): Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was a Dutch scientist and tradesman who did a part time job as a draper (clothe merchant) and amateur microscopist while investigating the microbial world with his crude or simple microscopes. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek is generally known as “the Father of Microbiology” because of his discovery of bacteria and contribution to the field of bacteriology and microscopy. Leeuwenhoek is also considered to be the first microbiologist since he was the first to observe and describe bacteria with his simple ‘amateur’ microscope. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek made significant development in building one of the first microscope used to visualize the invisible forms of life (microorganisms). The first person to clearly observe and describe microorganisms accurately was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek polished grains of sand into lenses which were able to magnify 300 times and he also added a simple focus mechanism to it. He was the first person to describe and measure bacteria and protozoa accurately in 1676. Thus, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek discovered the field of bacteriology and protozoology by his description of bacteria and protozoa.


Antonie van Leeuwenhoek viewed infusions from peppercorns, scrapings from his own teeth and rain and pond water, and he described his observations as “Animacules” because he taught they were tiny animals. He was also the first person to describe the spermatozoa in 1677 and he was also one of the first earlier scientists to describe red blood corpuscles. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek died on August 30, 1723 after living for 90 years (1632-1723). And because of his outstanding contributions to the field of microbiology, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek is considered as the father of microbiology, and the pioneer of bacteriology and protozoology because of his work on bacteria and protozoa. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek observed Animalcules’ in 1675 in faecal samples, water and from soil samples when he was working with his simple lenses. The Animalcules’ observed by Leeuwenhoek with his simple microscope or lenses were later discovered to be bacteria and other groups of microorganisms. The study of bacteria practically began with the use of the microscope, and this singular development is credited to Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. Leeuwenhoek is considered one of the first scientists to have observed bacteria and protozoa using the microscope; and this is why he was recognized as the father of microbiology. 

Further reading

Brooks G.F., Butel J.S and Morse S.A (2004). Medical Microbiology, 23rd edition. McGraw Hill Publishers. USA. Pp. 248-260.

Madigan M.T., Martinko J.M., Dunlap P.V and Clark D.P (2009). Brock Biology of microorganisms. 12th edition. Pearson Benjamin Cummings Publishers. USA. Pp.795-796.

Nester E.W, Anderson D.G, Roberts C.E and Nester M.T (2009). Microbiology: A Human Perspective. Sixth edition. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc, New York, USA.

Prescott L.M., Harley J.P and Klein D.A (2005). Microbiology. 6th ed. McGraw Hill Publishers, USA. Pp. 296-299.

Singleton P and Sainsbury D (1995). Dictionary of microbiology and molecular biology, 3d ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Slonczewski J.L, Foster J.W and Gillen K.M (2011). Microbiology: An Evolving Science. Second edition. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, New York, USA.

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