Credit: ©The Royal Society
    Image number: RS.14648

    About cinnabar and gunpowder

    22 January 1686
    Object type
    Archive reference number
    Manuscript page number
    height (page): 46mm
    width (page): 32mm
    Original drawing belonging to the letter now in Early Letter L1/79.

    Three figures in a letter from Antoni van Leeuwenhoek to the Royal Society. This is the English copy in the Letter Book of the original Dutch letter.

    Leeuwenhoek was experimenting with gunpowder, heating it in a glass tube until the sulphur and saltpetre divided. In the white smoke of the saltpetre, Leeuwenhoek observed many very small and round particles. Once the saltpetre particles started to fall down, he made sure to have the tube rested on its side so that the saltpetre particles wouldn't mix with the sulphur and charcoal. He then observed that all the saltpetre particles had taken up shapes of six-sided figures again, some regular (M), others irregular (N and O).

    The figures are copied in LBC/11i/019.
    Object history
    At the meeting of the Royal Society on 31 March 1686, ‘Part of a letter of Mr. Leewenhoeck was read, containing several curious observations on cinnabar and gunpowder’ (Birch, 4:470).

    Printed in:
    A. Leeuwenhoek, ‘Several observations on cinnabar and gunpowder’, Phil. Trans. vol. 17, no. 200 (May 1693), pp. 754-60.

    Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Ontledingen en ontdekkingen. Van de cinnaber naturalis, en bus-poeder; van het maaksel van been en huyd; van de galnoot, kastanie en okkernoot; van de voortteelinge van eenige zaden, vergeleken by de Voortteelinge van Garnaad, krabbe, en kreeft; waar in de deugdsaamheid van het eyken-hout bestaat, en hoe het te kennen is (Leiden: Cornelis Boutesteyn, 1686), pp. 3-24.

    Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Anatomia Seu interiora Rerum, Cum Animatarum tum Inanimatarum, Ope & beneficio [sic] exquisitissimorum Microscopiorum Detecta, variisque experimentis demonstrata [etc.] (Leiden: C. Boutesteyn, 1687), pp. 178-94.
    Related fellows
    Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632 - 1723, Dutch) , Naturalist
    Associated place
    <The World>
       > Europe
          > Netherlands
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