Did you know that Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680) was the first to describe the size and shape of red cells?

By Shaun Richard McCann

Did you know that Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680), a biologist and medical doctor (he graduated from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands) was the first to describe the size and shape of red cells. He was also one of the earliest to use a microscope during dissections.  The Jannsen brothers (also in the Netherlands) invented the compound microscope in the late 16th century) . 

Many biologists used drawings of what they had seen through a microscope by using the ‘camera lucida’ and this practise continued until the middle of the 20th century when it was replaced by digital photography. The principle of the ‘camera lucida’ is the superimposition of the object being viewed on the surface upon which the microscopist is drawing.

In the mid 1990s automated digital cell morphology (ADCM) was developed. A digital image is a numeric representation of a two-dimensional image; each number represents the brightness and colour of a pixel, which is the smallest individual element in an image.

Read more:

Hajdu S I. A note from history: The discovery of blood cells. Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science 33(2): 237-238. 2003.

McCann. A history of haematology from Herodotus to HIV. Oxford Medical Histories, Oxford University Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-19-871760-7