Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Leeuwenhoek - Father of Microbiology

If you love science, technology, and engineering, chances are you are like me and an "early adopter." An early adopter is defined as, "a person who uses a new product or technology before it becomes widely known or used." Early adopters are often innovators as well. They recognize the value of a new invention or process, try it and then improve it, apply it in a more effective way, or try it in a completely different application.

This was especially the case several hundred years ago when early scientists and engineers had to conceive of and then construct their equipment before using it to seek answers to puzzling questions.

Early Dutch scientist, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723) was highlighted this week with a Google doodle for his discovery in 1676 of "little animals" (microorganisms) in rainwater. He saw these through his improved (i.e., he ground and polished his own single lens) version of Robert Hooke's microscope. With this DIY improvement, van Leeuwenhoek went on to study muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa and blood flow in capillaries.

As a scientist trained in microbiology, van Leeuwenhoek is my hero. His improved lens could magnify objects by a factor of about 200 – 300, while Hooke’s compound microscope magnified only by a factor of about 40 – 50. 

Just another example of old school ingenuity and innovation in action. Go science!

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