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April 1963

Anthony van Leeuwenhoek and His "Little Animals": Being Some Account of the Father of Protozoology

Arch Intern Med. 1963;111(4):529-530. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03620280129028

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This paperback reprint of a wonderful book demonstrates from several points of view the truth that science is a passionate enterprise. Cold objectivity is a figment of the imagination. Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) did not live as a biologist or as a manufacturer of magnifying glasses. He was a draper in Delft, who for over 50 years took a passionate interest in the smallest living things. In 1673 he sent a letter about them to the Royal Society of London. When he died in August, 1723, he had sent some 200 letters—the last one only three months before—on the microscopic appearance of the diaphragm of sheep and oxen. Why about this subject? He was curious about the cause of his own palpitations, and he believed that they arose in the diaphragm. Boitet, his biographer, wrote: "Six-and-thirty hours before his death, when his limbs were already growing numb, the fire of his ardour

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