Complex truth (Antoni van Leeuwenhoek)
On November evening on the eve of St. Martin's Day 1659 one of the most popular taverns in the central part of Delft, which is located in the South of the Netherlands, halfway between Rotterdam and the Hague, was crowded with citizens joyfully celebrating the upcoming holiday. Pale light of the full moon shone evenly through the weeping windows of the pub and created a bizarre contrast with the trembling light from candles and oil lamps inside the room. Most of the visitors of the tavern were merchants, artisans and fishermen with their wives or girlfriends. Some tables, however, were occupied by petty city officials engaged in easy conversations while drinking juniper vodka and eating cheese and ham.
Suddenly, the tavern door opened wide, letting inside a burst of cold air, which almost blew out the flame of a large wood-burning stove... A strange man of low stature entered the room backwards. He was wearing a long coat and a wide-brimmed felt hat on top of a fashionable wig. With both his hands he was holding a wicker basket covered gently covered with a piece of leather. The loud clap of the closing door made the visitors of the tavern flinch synchronously. Everyone fell silent for a while and looked at the newcomer. However, the new tavern client did not seem worthy of close attention to the present people, and, bit by bit the former atmosphere of serene fun in the pub was restored.
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was the culprit of this triumphal entry into the tavern. Carrying his burden at the level of his chest, he began to manoeuvre between the tables in search of a free seat. Although he managed to find such a place in the far dark corner of the tavern - behind the stove and next to the fishermen sleeping in a drunken stupor, the naturalist continued his search, trying to find a better place near the sources of light.
Finally, desperate to find a free place in the central part of the hall, Leeuwenhoek approached a massive blacksmith who alone occupied the whole bench at a table near a pillar with an oil lamp. Together with his friends he was singing some kind of a joyful song. Leeuwenhoek said:
- Dear sir, I'm terribly sorry to bother you, but an urgent matter forces me to cause you some inconvenience ...
- What?! - cried the drunken giant in confusion. He clenched his fists and raised his seat. - How dare you interrupt us when we are performing our favourite verses!
- Trust me, if You move a bit and let me sit next to you, I shall show you something you have never seen before and will hardly ever see in future. - Leeuwenhoek put his basket on the floor, took off his hat and looked at the blacksmith. - I assure you, you will not regret and will never forget this!
- Sounds interesting, lad. But you’d better be right, because if I remain disappointed…- The blacksmith slowly moved away from the edge of the bench and invited Leeuwenhoek to occupy the free space. - Sit down and either surprise me, as promised, or get yourself prepared for a painful thrashing.
- Many thanks! - Said the naturalist. He extracted from his basket an oblong metal object with some glass inserts and put the device on the table. - And now someone, please, ask the tavern keeper to serve us a piece of cheese...
- Cheese?! - The blacksmith turned red again. - Do you want to surprise me with cheese?"
- No, my friend, I want to show you tiny creatures, which are a thousand times smaller than the eye of an adult louse. And in addition I can surprise with the fact that these tiny creatures fill, for example, your entire mighty body! - Leeuwenhoek pinched off a small crumb of cheese brought by the tavern keeper, crushed it into powder with his fingers and touched one of fingers with a metal plate, which he then placed under a lens of his device. - Look through this tube and behold the organisms that exist in cheese consumed by us with such pleasure ...
Half an hour later, the table, where Leuwenhoek was sitting, was surrounded by all visitors of the tavern. People pushed each other away, trying to squeeze themselves closer to the magic microscope.
- So do you are saying, dear Antoni, that these moving "sticks" and "hooks" can be found in the drop of my blood that I’d put on the plate? - The dumbfounded blacksmith couldn’t take his eyes from Leuwenhoek and barely resisted his excitement. - But how?! How is this possible?! Here on the table there are the same drops of my blood. Red, no "little creatures" inside! Are you a wizard or a swindler?! You have indeed surprised me and deprived me of calmness! Why did you even come here today? To impress the imagination of people here?
- No, my dear Martin, it's very simple: I haven’t left the house for several days. I’ve been polishing the lenses and building a brand new type of a microscope. And when I finished my work, I found out that I had no food to examine different kinds of bacteria through this device... So, I was simply forced to visit this tavern at such a late hour, disturb your peace and conduct a public experiment! - Leuwenhoek looked around and smiled slyly. - But you have no idea, my friends, how many interesting and useful for science things I have discovered in this blood, as well as saliva, semen, surface of the skin, and organisms of animals and insects..."