60-Second Science

8 of 500 episodes indexed
Back to Search - All Episodes

The Dirty Secret behind Some of the World's Earliest Microscopes

by Scientific American
May 26th 2021
Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek made extraordinary observations of blood cells, sperm cells and bacteria with his microscopes. But it turns out the lens technology he used was quite ordin... More
you're ready to get back into yoga. So you ordered the essentials, a nonslip mat yoga blocks to keep balance and an exercise ball and you use your bank of America customized cash, rewards, credit card choosing to earn 3% cash back on online shopping and up to 5.25% as a preferred rewards member, which you put towards your most essential yoga gear noise canceling headphones, apply for yours at Bank of America dot com slash more rewarding. Copyright 2021 Bank of America Corporation. This is scientific American, Science. I'm Christopher and Agata. Nearly 350 years ago, the Dutch scientist, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek scraped some white stuff off his teeth as thick as if it were batter. He wrote and peered at it under one of his handmade microscopes. What he saw was alive. He described it as many very little living anima cules very prettily a moving the biggest of which shot through the water or spittle like a pike does through the water.

What he had discovered in the plaque from his teeth, the anima cules that was bacteria. And before Van Leeuwenhoek observations of bacteria, nobody could have discovered bacteria because they didn't have the optical resolution. Lambert van Dyke is a material scientist at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. He says some of Van Leeuwenhoek microscopes could magnify things more than 200 times. And contemporaries like robert Hooke in England who'd written a book full of microscopic observations. They were stunned by his findings. Robert Hooke actually spent quite some effort trying to discover why was Anthony really work so skilled and what kind of mysterious ways of producing the lenses made him able to see for the first time bacteria. But van Leeuwenhoek wasn't eager to reveal the secrets behind the hundreds of microscopes he built. Some people have explicitly asked him about the lenses And he never said anything about it. It's still a big mystery how these lenses were made after 350 years and the only way they could discover would be to break it open and then you would obviously see what lens will be like.

They're too precious. That's where Lambert Van Ike comes in. He and his colleagues were able to peer inside several of Van Leeuwenhoek microscopes with a non destructive technique called neutron tomography. It's the same idea as a CT scan, but it uses neutrons instead of X rays and what they found surprised them. Instead of using lens types unknown to other scientists of his day, Van Leeuwenhoek had just installed a common type of ground and polished lens in one of the microscopes they examined and in the other one of his most powerful scopes, he had used a globe shaped lens produced by flame working a lens type that his scientific competitor, robert Hooke himself, had already described. And so now the ironical thing is that actually most likely it's the methods of robert Hooke himself that used The findings are in the journal science Advances. Vanek points out that Van Leeuwenhoek was still an extremely skilled craftsman and glass grinder, able to build the finest microscopes of his day and his discoveries of blood cells and sperm cells, parasites and bacteria.

They were all together extraordinary. It just seems the types of lenses he used to do that work or anything. But thanks for listening for scientific american 60 seconds science. I'm Christopher and dalia to.

The Dirty Secret behind Some of the World's Earliest Microscopes
The Dirty Secret behind Some of the World's Earliest Microscopes
replay_10 forward_10