A Double Dactyl Poem About a Man Before His Time

Delft, 1675
(Or: Why Many of Leeuwenhoek’s Letters Remain Unpublished)

Higgledy-piggledy,
Anton van Leeuwenhoek,
uneducated in
science and such,

made tiny microscopes,
spied spirogyra, sired
microbiology—
published in Dutch.

(c) 2012 Stephanie Parsley

Ever since I read an old-ish poem about Antony van Leeuwenhoek inventing the microscope, he’s fascinated me. It turns out he didn’t invent the microscope, but in the mid-1600s he created his own teeny-tiny single-lens microscopes, with which he was the first to see blood cells, sperm cells, protozoa and many more fascinating things. Also, the guy was a fabric merchant, not a scientist. He had never attended university. And he spoke only Dutch. But that didn’t hold him back. It would be about 150 years before technology advanced enough for the same things to be viewed with a compound microscope.

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