Survey 5 – Block Books and Baroque (1450-1750)

Lecture Summary Block Books and Baroque (1450-1750)

In this week’s lecture we focused on the agest between 1450 and 1750, a span of three hundred years included a variety of time periods of immense progress in various areas. The renaissance brought on the renewal of the Greek and Roman classics which drove investigations in architecture and human anatomy. The Greek and Roman classics acted as anew foundation for the growth and renewal of many subjects, not just limited to the ones I listed, typography, for example was greatly influenced by the renaissance. Humanism which began to develop at the same time, also pushed people to make scientific discoveries as they looked for their own answers instead of looking to the Church. Even past the renaissance science began developing at breakneck speed with critical discoveries from Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton to name a few. For example, The scientific Revolution(beginning with Nicolaus Copernicus) and the Age of Enlightenment created a demand a place for scientific books to be published. In turn, it also created the genre of scientific illustration. Essentially, science this period of time was crucial to many scientific discoveries which we take for granted.

My group (which focused on science and technology) found this span of time particularly easy to consider. Science is an incredibly broad subject, and we chose to narrow our research down to biology. Advancements in biology began in the renaissance with the work of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and continued throughout this time period.

Research – Discovery of microorganism


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Google’s “google doodle” celebrating Leeywenhoek’s 384th birthday (photo taken from

While the science of microbiology is a relatively new science, having had about only one hundred fifty years of applicable history, its origins are much older. The foundations of microbiology, bacteriology and protozoology were built in the 1600’s by a man found by a man who had no intent of finding them.

The credit of discovering the first microorganisms goes largely to a Dutch man by the name of Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. He was the first to declare the existence of life which was not visible to the naked eye. Many modern day microbiologist argue that his work with microorganisms build the foundations of the science.  Leeuwenhoek was no scientist, by profession he was draper,and it is evident that fact is evident in all of his work. He had a notable interest in lens making, however most of this came from necessity. Originally his lenses were made with the sole purpose of of examining small pieces of thread. And yet, in 1644 when he looked into his microscope (which had magnification between x30 and x226) he observed protozoa which he had isolated from various different sources (including rainwater, well and pond water, intestines, and the human mouth). He dubbed the microscopic organisms “animalcules’, the word protozoa would not be used until much later.


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Leeuwenhoek’s self made microscope (photo taken from


As amazing as his discovery was, his research was anything but scientific , especially in organization (or better said a lack of organization).However, he demonstrated unparalleled skills of observation, as he is credited with given the first correct report of microorganisms ( although this information would have no practical application until later).


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Some of Leeuwenhoek’s illustrations of microorganisms

In 1676 Leeuwenhoek submitted his discovery to the Royal Society in London where they were later published in the group’s book “Philosophical transactions”. In later years he ___ a letter to the Royal society which detailed the various microbiological investigations he carried out. These letters where published in 1684 and contained the first illustrations of bacteria. He specifically illustrated microorganisms such as bacilli streptococci, volvox, vorticella and euglena.. Amazing enough, these illustrations are still viable and extraordinarily accurate.  Other discoveries he made at roughly the same time include his observations of free-living protozoa (which include various species of paramecium), the first parasitic protozoa and the discovery of Giardia Lamblia.

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Robert Hooke’s “Micrographia” published in 1655 (photo taken from Wikipedia)

While Leeuwenhoek was the first to illustrate bacteria, Robert Hooke was the first to illustrate filamentous microscopic fungi. Robert Hooke was a man of many talents, as he was an astronomer, map maker, architect, and a biologist. He was the first person to use the microscope in an academic study, which was crucial to the Leeuwenhoek’s discovery. In 1655 (21 years before Leeuwenhoek’s publication) he published the first book about microbiology entitled “Micrographia” which introduced the topic of microbiology to the world (however it did not document any microorganisms).



Works Cited

  • “Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek.” Britannica, Britiannica, 22 Aug. 2018, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  • “A Brief History of Microbiology.” Cliffnotes, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  • “Introduction to Microbiology.” Lumen, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  • Wainwright, Milton, and Joshua Lederberg. “History of Microbiolog.” The Joshua Lederberg Papers, pp. 1-19. US Nation Library of Medicine, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.

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