Indiana University Bloomington

Anatomia Animata: Anatomy and Medicine in William Harvey's Century


The use of the microscope to investigate nature began in the seventeenth century and exploded into a variety of subjects of study. The microscopes were both simple and compound. Even glass beads became important magnifying tools. In 1665, Robert Hooke, the versatile curator of experiments at the Royal Society, published the first text detailing microscopic discoveries, complete with illustrations depicting the startling images Hooke had witnessed.

Marcello Malpighi and Jan Swammerdam made extensive explorations into the anatomy of insects and also plants, as well as structures of the human body. Anton van Leeuwenhoek devoted all of his studies to microscopy, constantly inventing and refining a variety of techniques of observation and microscope designs. Leeuwenhoek was single–minded about microscopy, but his fellow users were to make a startling array of discoveries in physiology, insects, and botany, both with the microscope and with a variety of other investigative techniques.

Robert Hooke. Micrographia: or, Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses. With Observations and Inquiries Thereupon. London: Printed by J. Martyn & J. Allestry, 1665.

Exquisitely illustrated, this is the first major work on microscopy, and it revealed many images unknown before its publication. Hooke's contributions covered a myriad of subjects often experimental in nature, especially because of his role as curator of experiments for the Royal Society. Hooke applied his microscope to a wide variety of subjects, as evidenced by the images displayed.

Anton van Leeuwenhoek. Arcana Naturae, Ope & Beneficio Exquisitissimorum Microscopiorum ... Leiden: Apud Cornelium Boutestein, 1708.

Leeuwenhoek devoted his studies to microscopy, revising his instruments and techniques, over and over, and training them on the many subjects that promised to reveal new secrets under magnification. In a sense, for Leeuwenhoek, it was the microscope rather than his subjects that was his primary interest. The first edition of this work is displayed in the section devoted to insects.

Jan Swammerdam. Biblia Naturae; sive Historia Insectorum ... Leiden: Apud Issacum Severnium, Balduinum Vander Aa, & Petrum Vander Aa, 1737–8.

A major contribution to the study of insects and the result of a life devoted to studying their anatomy, Swammerdam's treatise was not published until after his death. He left his manuscript to a close friend to publish, but the friend passed away before he could have it printed, and it passed through other hands before finally being seen through the press by the great Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave. The Biblia included Swammerdam's earlier work as well as new findings from his later studies.

Lilly Library Home     Exhibition Home     Online Exhibitions
Last Updated: 1 August 2009
© 2009 The Trustees of Indiana University