A Letter from Leeuwenhook


You have received the following translation of an amazing letter from Anton van Leeuwenhoek. You do not understand the complex nature of time travel, but you do not doubt that the letter is genuine.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
23 May, 1720

My Dear Associate,

One of my assistant lens grinders has told me of the potential of providing this letter to you some years from now. While I am not certain of his methods, he assures me that I will receive your reply before I die. I have promised not to reveal any of your information before my death, so you need not worry that your answers to my questions will alter the course of scientific discovery. Your response will be buried with me to make positively sure that others know nothing of our exchange of letters. Please be honest and complete as you answer these questions for me.

How has my microscope affected science through the years? How much better have you made my device? Can you see smaller things than even my wee beasties?

I have drawn two of my observations below. What do you call these creatures? Are they still called animalcules? Are there more types than these which I have seen?

I also suspect that perhaps larger creatures (and even mankind itself, may the Church forgive me!) are made up of microscopically small beasties and animalcules. If you can answer that without fear of eternal damnation, please tell me the answers.

It is my dying wish to learn these things. Please do not deny me in my quest for knowledge.

Your obedient servant,

Anton van Leeuwenhoek


Your task is to provide a reply for Anton. Write your answer to his questions in the form of a formal letter. Remember that van Leeuwehoek knows nothing of science beyond the 18th century. You can concentrate your answers on the impact of the microscope on biology and ignore the other areas of science.

Since your letter will be translated by van Leeuwenhoek's assistant, you will need to be grammatically accurate and use correct spelling to make the task of translation as simple as possible.

Use your creative ability. Write a rough draft in pencil and staple it to the back of your final copy. Your final copy should be typewritten using as many pages as necessary.




These pages authored and maintained by Marcella Dawson. Revised 3/2002 . Copyright 1995 CRPC GirlTECH. All rights reserved. . Email your comments. These pages were developed through GirlTECH '96, a teacher training and student technology council program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.