(1713–1781), English naturalist and microscopist. Needham's observations on the generation of microscopic organisms were crucial to eighteenth-century discussions of nature. Born in London into a recusant family, he attended the English school of Douai; he was ordained a secular priest in Cambrai in 1738. He became professor of philosophy at the English school in Lisbon, where he made his first observations with a microscope. He was welcomed in Paris by the naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, with whom he collaborated on microscopic experiments. Elected a fellow of the Royal Society (1747) and of the Society of Antiquaries of London (1761), he also became Buffon's correspondent for the Académie Royale des Sciences (1768). In 1768 he settled in Brussels, where, as the first director of the Royal Academy of Belgium (1773), he fostered careful laboratory science.
From Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945).