Out of sheer curiosity, a Dutch tradesman working in the 1670s made a lens that was five hundred times more powerful than all other lenses at the time.
With his DIY lens, he revealed a previously unseen world of little "animacules" in a drop of pond water. He was such a modest, amateur scientist, however, that the most distinguished scientists of the day thought he might be hallucinating.
What van Leeuwenhoek saw changed the way we see the world. It's the moment microbiology was born.
Anton van Leeuwenhoek (from wikipedia).
Antony van Leeuwenhoek (from UC Berkeley).
Jenny Uglow grew up in Cumbria and Dorset and studied English at Oxford.
Her latest book is a study of Charles II and the tumultuous first decade of the restoration, A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and was created an OBE in 2007. She is married to Steve Uglow, Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Kent: they live in Canterbury and have four grown-up children.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.