Pages tagged leeuwenhoek

Basket makers

Leeuwenhoek came from a family of basketmakers on his father's side. Although, according to Leeuwenhoek biographers Schierbeek and van Seters, the records are a little murky, Antony's grandfather Thonis Philpsz. (?-1643), was a basketmaker, as was Thonis's brother Cornelis Philpsz. (?-1616).


Leeuwenhoek's mother, Margaretha Bel van den Berch, came from a family of brewers and cloth merchants. On May 16, 1716, van Leeuwenhoek wrote to Gerard van Loon: My grand- and great-grandfathers were brewers, and my grandmother was the daughter of a brewer.

How prominent was Leeuwenhoek's family?

Leeuwenhoek is often portrayed as an uneducated merchant whose curiosity and diligence let him rise from obscurity to find an honored and secure place in the history of science. The question then becomes, where did he find the time? How did he buy the time without family wealth like that of Christiaan Huygens or most of the members of the Royal Society? How did he manage to leave a substantial estate to his daughter? How did he accomplish anything without a formal university education?

How prosperous was Leeuwenhoek's family?

They lived comfortable lives in a prosperous country. They did not live in a post-Industrial Revolution consumer society, so comparisons to today's Dutch society are deceiving.

Related families

Other female members of Leeuwenhoek's family married into these families: van Kessel van Schie van Amsterdam van Hasseld den Appel

The Leeuwenhoek name: How to pronounce it

In Dutch, leeuw is lion and hoek is corner. When Antony's grandfather Thonis became a member of the Dutch Reformed Church in February 1601, he put his name down as a basketmaker living on the Oosteinde at the Leeuwenpoortge, literally, the Little Lion's Gate, the "Little" referring to the gate, not the lion.

The Leeuwenhoek name: How to spell it

In the 1600's, spelling was not standardized. Many of the names in the documents discussed on this web have at least two spellings, sometimes in the same document. The Delft baptism, marriage, and burial records have half-a-dozen different combinations of Leeuwenhoek's name, three variants of his first name and three of the family name.

The Leeuwenhoek name: What about the "van"?

Modern biographers point out that Antony began using the van after he achieved international fame in the 1680's. Some imply that the lowly, self-taught shopkeeper felt the need to tart up his name, a bit of social climbing revealing of his character. Like the Vermeer connection, it makes a good story, but it's a little more complicated.