Frames /sing


Swammerdam’s Microscope: A single lens example 1678

In keeping with the correlation of contemporary single-lens microscope types, below is a reconstruction of Swammerdam’s microscope. There is some likelihood that Spinoza constructed glass-bead microscopes, (among my reasons: his recommendation of smaller objective lenses to Huygens, and his relationship to Hudde who was forthcoming with his influential glass-bead designs, Colerus’ mention of his use of the magnifying glass, Spinoza’s comment about the freakishness of the hand under magnification); so along with Van Leeuwenhoek simple scopes this late example serves as a possibility when envisioning the possible Spinoza design.


“None of Swammerdam’s microscopes have survived, but we know that he used small bead-lenses (1-2 mm in diameter), some of which he made himself, and which probably had a maximum magnification of around 150x.

In March 1678, Swammerdam sent a blood sample to his patron, Melchisedec Thévenot, with a drawing (A) of a microscope that bears a striking resemblance to the microscopes made at the time by Musschenbroek in Leiden. A copy of the drawing is given in (B) and an interpretation of the microscope in use in (C).”


As designed by Michael Davidson at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory:


It strikes me that the kinds of observations reported by Theodor Kerckring in his Spicilegium anatomicum (1670),

“I have at my disposal a very excellent (praestantissimum) microscope, which is fabricated by that noble Benedictus Spinosa, mathematician and philosopher, by means of which we can see that the lymphatic vessels, split up in various dreads, enter their balled glands. What I in this way discovered with the help of this admirable instrument, is still more astonishing: endlessly many, extremely small animalcula….”

likely indicate a magnification beyond that used by Swammerdam, but I have not as yet been able to get an assessment of Kerckring’s report. Kerckring was, I believe, studying at Leiden when Swammerdam was there, in the valued year of 1661.

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