Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek (in Dutch also Anthonie, Antoni, or Theunis, in English, Antony or Anton; English pronunciation: /ˈleɪvənhʊk/, Dutch: ; October 24, 1632 – August 26, 1723) was a Dutch tradesman and scientist from Delft, Netherlands. He is commonly known as "the Father of Microbiology", and considered to be the first microbiologist. He is best known for his work on the improvement of the microscope and for his contributions towards the establishment of microbiology. Using his handcrafted microscopes he was the first to observe and describe single celled organisms, which he originally referred to as animalcules, and which we now refer to as microorganisms. He was also the first to record microscopic observations of muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa and blood flow in capillaries (small blood vessels). Van Leeuwenhoek did not author any books, although he did write many letters.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was born in Delft, The Netherlands, on October 24, 1632. He was the son of the basket maker Philips Teunisz Leeuwenhoeck and Margriete Jacobsdr van den Berch, who were married in Delft on 30 Jan 1622. The Leeuwenhoeks lived in a comfortable brick house on Leeuwenpoort Street. Before his sixth birthday two of his younger sisters and his father had died, and his mother was left with five young children. On 18 Dec 1640 she married Jacob Molijn and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was sent to boarding school in the village of Warmond, near Leiden. Soon after he was invited by an uncle to live with him in Benthuizen, a village northeast of Delft. At age 16, his stepfather died and his mother decided it was time for Antonie to learn a trade. He secured an apprenticeship with a Scottish cloth merchant in Amsterdam as a bookkeeper and casher. In 1653, Van Leeuwenhoek saw his first simple microscope, a magnifying glass mounted on a small stand used by textile merchants, capable of magnifying to a power of 3. He soon acquired one for his own use. In 1654, he left Amsterdam, moved back to Delft for the rest of his life and started his own lucrative drapery business there. On July 11, he married Berber (Barbara) de Mey, the daughter of a cloth merchant and settled as a linen-draper. He was registered as Anthoni Leeuwenhouck. Four out of his five children died young. In 1660, he was appointed chamberlain of the Lord Regents of Delft. In 1666 his wife died and in 1671 he married Cornelia Swalmius, the daughter of a minister. Van Leeuwenhoek outlived his second wife, who died in 1694.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did not learn Latin, or attend university, but in 1669 he obtained a degree in surveying; it is possible he was involved in Subdivision Plans for the city of Delft. Demonstrable is his appointment in 1676 as a bailiff. In 1679 he got a post as a gauger, an inspector of wine and beer at the local publicans, who were heavily taxed for the amount that was sold.