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Van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to successfully use a microscope (which he designed and made himself) in the 1670's. So, he was able to observe micro-organisms in detail that no one else had seen before, measuring their size and features etc. Despite him being known as the "Father of Microbiology" now, his work was not recognised at the time, and it took another few centuries for the significance of micro-organisms to be acknowledged.