“Everything we’re watching today came from puddles around Warsaw that James, our master of microscopes, collected samples from. He waited for two days after it rained and then wandered from puddle to puddle, so he could collect water to watch under the microscope,” explains host Matthew Gaydos.
Weiss is not the first, but only one of the latest, people to put rainwater under a microscope. As Gaydos explains, microscopy pioneer Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, commonly known as the father of microbiology, put water under an early microscope back in the 17th century. Leeuwenhoek is regarded as the first-ever microscopist.
Leeuwenhoek’s many writings were the first to describe microorganisms, which the Dutch scientist called “little animalcules.” While it is so easy to take for granted today that there are tiny, microscopic organisms everywhere on Earth, including in rainwater, in van Leeuwenhoek’s time, not everyone believed his reports.
It seemed truly outrageous to many to think that there were living organisms that could not be seen with the naked eye.
“I suffer many contractions and oft-times hear it said that I do but tell fairy tales about the little animals,” van Leeuwenhoek once wrote to fellow scientist Robert Hooke.
In 1675, van Leeuwenhoek turned his microscope on rainwater, “which had stood but few days in a new earthen pot.” This experiment, and the papers that followed, informed not only van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopy studies, but the work of many who followed.
“Every time you see a puddle, you can think of a natural ode to the early experiments that introduced us to the microcosmos,” Gaydos says.
Beyond being an homage to van Leeuwenhoek, puddles are a fantastic target for modern microscope experts like Weiss. PetaPixel has previously featured microscope footage of Weiss, including this incredible look at a “fake jellyfish.”
Image credits: Featured image comprised of screenshots from Weiss’ microscope video