Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2019
How could an uneducated 17th century cloth merchant become the Father of Microbiology? And why should children read about him?
A few books have been written about this Dutchman, and the insightful letters he wrote are available for reading. But thanks of Lori Alexander and Vivien Mildenberger, a new middle grade book introduces this most unusual science pioneer to young people.
In All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World, Alexander welcomes young readers into a most curious world. Her voice is playful yet informative. Antony’s questions are childlike yet provoking. It’s enough to inspire any reader to turn the page again and again.
The illustrations by Vivien Mildenberger are delightful and creative. I love the charming collage of Antony’s early specimens (page 31-32) and suspect that children will as well.
Alexander and Mildenberger capture the wonder of Antony’s investigations… his childhood ponderings of silkworms, the trial and error developments of his magnifiers, water here, water there, and the endless assortment of bodily fluids. Antony’s curiosity knew no end, and that’s why children should read this nonfiction biography.
Antony was a science pioneer of the highest caliber. He explored many interests and ended up impacting several of them, including microbiology, botany, zoology, and hematology. He’s a fine example of both a generalist and a naturalist.
He was an independent life-long learner who did not let his lack of a formal education slow him down. What he didn’t know, he figured out as best as he could, and the persistence he showed as he perfected his lenses is legendary. In this age of a free libraries and free internet there’s no reason why each of us can’t be more like him – curious to know and understand the natural world.
Alexander deserves credit for teasing the most intriguing and relevant facts from her sources, especially from Clifford Dobell’s biography and from the extensive and scholarly webpage, lensonleeuwenhoek.com. And her bibliography gives enthusiasts excellent destinations for learning more about Antony and his little diertgens.
Those same microbes discovered in Antony’s workshop are today revealing fascinating new secrets to scientists. Microbes play a bigger part in our health than we ever imagined, and there’s much we’re just starting to understand.
All in a Drop will surely inspire many children to follow their own curiosity and explore the natural world. I highly recommend it for ages 8-12.