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How Life BeganEvolution's Three Geneses$
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Alexandre Meinesz

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226519319

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226519333.001.0001

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Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek

Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek

Luck, random chance, risk, and contingencies in evolution

(p.96) Chapter 5 Vermeer and Van Leeuwenhoek
How Life Began

Alexandre Meinesz

University of Chicago Press

Johannes Vermeer, a painter widely admired today but poorly known in his own time, was born in 1632 in Delft. In this environment Vermeer created a new style of Dutch painting. His depictions of the local bourgeoisie are strikingly realistic and attest to a refined sensitivity. He was also sensitive to the art of the sciences: on six of his canvases, large maps are suspended on walls. They express the sum total of geographical knowledge that was, by then, very advanced. Similarly, two paintings each portray a scientist: an astronomer in front of books, brushing his hand over a celestial globe, and a geographer facing a naval map, holding a pair of dividers against a background of an armoire, books, and a terrestrial globe. Art historians agree that The Astronomer and The Geographer use the same model for the subject. He closely resembles an authenticated portrait of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, painted by Jan Verkolje. Van Leeuwenhoek was a scientist known for his passion for geometry, astronomy, and optics, and he became famous for a high-performance microscope that he built. With this instrument he was the first person to discover microbes and their astounding diversity.

Keywords:   Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, scientists, microbes, artists, The Astronomer, The Geographer

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