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When Were Microorganisms First Seen Under a Microscope?

Microorganisms were seen under a microscope for the very first time in 1665 by English scientist Robert Hooke. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek - a Dutch textile merchant turned scientist - was then the first person to discover bacteria, becoming one of the pioneers of microbiology in the process!



What are microorganisms?

A microorganism, or microbe, is an organism that can only be seen through a microscope. The study of microorganisms is known as microbiology, a field that concerns itself with the structure, function and classification of such organisms and the ways in which we can exploit and control their behaviours. Microorganisms include bacteria, archaea, protists and fungi.


When were microorganisms discovered?

Microorganisms were first discovered in the 17th century by two scientists who are now considered the fathers of microbiology.

The first of these two scientists was an Englishman called Robert Hooke, whose book Micrographia paved the way for further investigations into the world of microorganisms. This work was later believed to have been seen by our second pioneer of microbiology, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch textile merchant who later became the first person to discover bacteria.

In 1668, van Leeuwenhoek travelled to London, where it is assumed he stumbled across the works of English scientist Robert Hooke on the subject of microbiology. In 1673, van Leeuwenhoek reported his first observations (bee mouthparts and stings, a human louse, and a fungus) to the Royal Society, where he was soon elected a member and continued his association for the rest of his life.

In 1676, van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria after closely observing water and seeing tiny organisms. He reported his findings to the scientific community via a letter, which led to doubt and unrest among the Royal Society. However, Robert Hooke - the first scientist to view microorganisms under a microscope - later repeated the experiment van Leeuwenhoek had conducted and was able to confirm his discoveries.

Van Leeuwenhoek later went on to lay the foundations of plant anatomy and became an expert on animal reproduction, discovering blood cells and microscopic nematodes. He created more than 500 microscopes to help view specific objects and even discovered sperm, which he considered to be one of the biggest and most important discoveries of his career.


Working in microbiology today

The study of microbiology plays a huge part in our understanding of human, plant and animal biology. Future advances in this area will no doubt help to further enhance our knowledge about life, its origins, and how a living body works.

Here at HRS, we specialise in the recruitment of talented microbiologists, helping qualified candidates to find roles where they will be able to make a real difference. So if you're looking to enter the field of microbiology, or you're thinking about taking the next step in your career, we can help!

Browse Microbiology Jobs >

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