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Brit found dead at Spanish airport had ‘slice of ham on each buttock and his genitals in tuna can’


Yes, it’s a real headline. No, I have no idea. Nobody has.

Now that I have your attention, I’d like to talk about something else. Today’s Google doodle celebrates the 384th birthday of Anton von Leeuwenhoek. Unlike most Google doodles that promote obscure scientists I never heard of, von Leeuwenhoek is an obscure scientist who is a great hero of mine.

Because microscopes. Von Leeuwenhoek was the first great miscroscopist and one of the greatest ever amateur scientists (I used to be big time into microscopy. And amateurishness). He was a Dutchman who owned a draper’s shop and later worked a series of civil service jobs. Microscopes were a hobby.

But he made fantastic microscopes that no-one of his era could match. Hundreds of them using a process he refused to divulge. Everyone else was grinding and polishing bits of glass for hours and assumed he did, too. In fact (I’ve forgotten where I read this, I’ve read so much about him over the years) he dripped molten glass into water, which formed optically perfect spheres with no mechanical finishing at all. Genius.

He was the first human being to see lots of neat things: protozoa. Bacteria. Tooth plaque. Sperm. Yeah, he got those last two samples exactly the way you think he did.

In 1926, a man named Paul de Kruif (an American of Dutch ancestry) wrote a book called the Microbe Hunters that has never since gone out of print. It takes microbiology from von Leeuwenhoek to Paul Ehrlich. It was a breathlessly enthusiastic not at all nuanced ‘Hooray for Science!’ book of the kind that inspired thousands of young scientists, and that educators can’t abide these days.

I loved it. Buy it for a kid.

Shame about that poor bastard in the Spanish airport, though, huh?


Comment from dissent
Time: October 24, 2016, 7:27 pm

Some young South Africans are telling us that we should throw out all our microscopes and related technology. Physics and chemistry, biology, geology, myriad other ologies. Because inherently racist. Because western white people were involved.

I’m pretty sure they haven’t thought this idea through to its conclusion. Let alone the vast historical ignorance that underpins the absurd premise.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: October 24, 2016, 8:23 pm

I’m not sure the murder and desecration of the body of a victim is humorous. Maybe, the cops shd not have released that info.

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: October 24, 2016, 8:28 pm

Yay for cavorting beasties!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 24, 2016, 8:40 pm

Oh, Ric Fan. I spent a whole Summer once reading every issue of The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. From the beginning.

The dead leave themselves in so many unintentionally humorous positions it’s hard not to suspect an agency is to blame.

Don’t ever, ever kill yourself believing you will leave any kind of attractive corpse behind.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: October 24, 2016, 9:38 pm

Why are you assuming he killed himself? His hands and feet were bound with plasticuffs. He could not put them on himself or do those other things to his body.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 24, 2016, 10:53 pm

Oh, I don’t think he killed himself. I’m sure he didn’t. I’m just saying, in one last act of cosmic cruelty, the stuff we leave behind often finds itself in the most undignified poses.

I’d feel guilty about laughing if I weren’t so sure my bits are likely to end up end a similarly embarrassing shape.

If my corpse is found with sliced ham on its bottom, its only justice.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: October 24, 2016, 11:53 pm

Yay! Another Anton von L. fan! I’m pretty sure I read Microbe Hunters when I was about eight or nine and was totally captivated. Later on I came across Robert Hooke, another unknown giant, in the fiction of Neal Stephenson, and had a grand time reading about his life and accomplishments.

Comment from BJM
Time: October 25, 2016, 2:29 am

Stoaty: Here’s another head scratcher. Seriously?

Comment from David Gillies
Time: October 25, 2016, 3:15 am

I think TerraCotta Jeebus™ is awesome.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 25, 2016, 7:06 am

Uncle Al, I’m pretty sure I took Microbe Hunters out of the library as an adult and it…didn’t hold up so well. I sure did love it when I read it first, though. So many doctors I’ve read who cite that as their first attraction to doctorin’.

Comment from Ново-Зеландия
Time: October 25, 2016, 9:47 am

I hear Georg Soros is about to get terminally liquidated.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 25, 2016, 1:06 pm

Oceania…that you, mang?

Comment from Gromulin
Time: October 25, 2016, 4:25 pm

Sad news if you haven’t heard – Steven Den Beste has passed away. USS Clueless was one of the first warblogs I recall being captured by. I’d never been much on Anime, but occasionally read Chizumatic after he shut down USS Clueless just because I respected his writing. Seems a lot of the first wave of bloggers I read – AcidMan, Neptunus Lex, and now Den Beste, are gone. Stay healthy Stoaty.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: October 25, 2016, 6:20 pm


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 25, 2016, 6:57 pm

Gosh. Thanks for the heads up, Grom. I hadn’t heard.

I used to read him ages ago, too. I didn’t realize he hadn’t blogged about politics since 2004 (so says National Review). That makes me feel internet old.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 25, 2016, 6:57 pm

Oh! Geez, Some Veg — I have a booger phobia!

Comment from Steve Skubinna
Time: October 25, 2016, 7:52 pm

Thing is, way back then all scientists were “amateurs.” They weren’t as bound up in the credentialling as we are today. You had an interest in something, you studied it and nobody sneered at you for not being published in a peer reviewed journal.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: October 25, 2016, 10:18 pm

@Steve Skubinna – Academic credentialing is in the same category as professional licensing. Both are barriers to competition in order to protect the rice bowls of those who’ve paid their way in.

Comment from drew458
Time: October 26, 2016, 4:26 am

anamicules, anamicules, anamicules and beasties!! I also be a big AvL fan.

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