When Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microbiology, created the world's first microscope, he saw "animalcules," bacteria, blood cells and protozoa that spun and twirled across his lens. Now researcher Brian J. Ford has re-created the 17th century Dutch inventor's work of 340 years ago. And he has recorded exactly what Leeuwenhoek discovered all those years ago.
At first, Ford used one of Leeuwenhoek's original microscopes (the scientist had built over 500, with different designs) to get up close and personal with his own blood cells. Later, New Scientist writes, "he had a device built that effectively used the tiny lenses in authentic or replica Leeuwenhoek microscopes as the lenses for his own camera, and started to take photos."
As you can see from the photo, Leeuwenhoek was able to create lenses that can magnify up to 300 times, more than enough to see the tiny world that lives around us. Leeuwenhoek's microscope allowed him to discover, among other things, sperm and the process of fertilization.
It was quite a remarkable achievement, considering just how fiddly the microscopes were. According to New Scientist, "Leeuwenhoek microscopes contain a single tiny lens the size of a pinhead sandwiched in a hole between two flat rectangular sheets of brass." An observer then had to maneuver the observed object into place behind the lens.
Leeuwenhoek was a draper and a Delft city official who dabbled in lens grinding—specifically, magnifying lenses. Why would a draper want to build a better magnifying lens? They were used in the textile industry to count thread for quality control ... hence the term "thread count."
NOTE: Above, blood cells. Below, head louse and an original microscope.