Credit: ©The Royal Society
    Image number: RS.15747

    Section of optic nerve of a cow

    4 December 1674
    Unknown, Artist
    Object type
    Archive reference number
    Manuscript page number
    height (page): 320mm
    width (page): 210mm
    In a letter from Antoni van Leeuwenhoek to Henry Oldenburg.
    The second image on the paper, of a hexapod, was drawn after the main image had arrived at the Royal Society. Both images were printed together in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

    Van Leeuwenhoek is imagining how the hollow parts (Es & Fs) are threads that would have connected the eye to the brain, and that these hollow threads would have contained globules.
    Ick heb een stuckje dat ick vande voorverhaelde gedrooghde gesicht senuwe van een Koebeest overdwars heb afgesneden, voor een microscope gestelt, ende het selve laten uijt teijckenen, tgeene ick UEd hier nevens laet toe comen.
    Transcribed by the Making Visible project
    Object history
    The original specimen of the dried optic nerve of a cow was sent with this letter, and still exists in the archives of the Royal Society.

    Dried optic nerve of a cow, in A. Leeuwenhoek, 'Concerning the optic nerve', Phil. Trans. vol. 10, no. 117 (August and September 1675), pp. 378-80 (ref. to fig. at 379-80).

    Alle de brieven van Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, ed. by a committee of Dutch scientists, 17 vols [ongoing] (Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger, 1939- ), I, 188-203 (letter 13). This letter is accompanied by a pencil-drawing, representing a transverse section of an optic nerve. On this sheet someone in London drew a ‘Hexapod’, the two figures being printed on one page of the Phil. Trans., vol. 10, no. 117 (Sept 1675), as figures 1 and 2 (p. 189). Fig. 2 should go with ‘An Extract of a Letter of July 28, 1675, by Mr. Lister from York to the Publisher; containing some Observations about Damps, together with some Relations concerning odd Worms vomited by Children, etc.’ (see ibid., p. 393).

    There is a drawing in red chalk in London, British Library, Add. MS 22953, fol. 125. The image is reversed and seems to have more detail than the graphite drawing in the Royal Society. It is kept there accompanying an autograph fragment of the letter dated January 22nd 1675.
    Related fellows
    Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632 - 1723, Dutch) , Naturalist
    Henry Oldenburg (1612 - 1677, German) , Scientific correspondent
    Associated place
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