Royal Society Publishing

The discovery of microorganisms by Robert Hooke and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Fellows of The Royal Society

H. Gest


The existence of microscopic organisms was discovered during the period 1665–83 by two Fellows of The Royal Society, Robert Hooke and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. In Micrographia (1665), Hooke presented the first published depiction of a microrganism, the microfungus Mucor. Later, Leeuwenhoek observed and described microscopic protozoa and bacteria. These important revelations were made possible by the ingenuity of Hooke and Leeuwenhoek in fabricating and using simple microscopes that magnified objects from about 25–fold to 250–fold. After a lapse of more than 150 years, microscopy became the backbone of our understanding of the roles of microbes in the causation of infectious diseases and the recycling of chemical elements in the biosphere.

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