Over 3.5 billion years of “microbes”; only 400 years of Microbiology!


Feb 20, 2013 (5 years and 4 months ago)


Over 3.5 billion years of “microbes”;

only 400 years of Microbiology!

What were some early fundamental discoveries?

First Microscopes

{Jannsen (1590), Hooke (1665), and van Leeuwenhoek (1676)}

Debunking Spontaneous Generation

{Redi (1668), Needham (1748), Spallanzani (1767), Pasteur (1861)}

Linking Microbes to Human Disease

{Rhazes (900), Semmelweis (1847), Snow (1854), Lister (1867), Koch (1876)}

Discovering Immunity

{Jenner (1798), Pasteur (1881, 1885), Metchnikoff (1884), and von Behring (1890)}

Agricultural and Environmental Microbiology

{Bassi (1835), Berkeley (1845), Beijerinck (1889), and Winogradsky (1887)}

First Microscopes

Zacharias Jannsen (1595),

Robert Hooke (1665):
first “cells” from cork;
, 1665

First Microscopes

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1676): excellent simple microscopes;
discovered and observed microbes, called them “animalcules”.

Debunking Spontaneous Generation

Fancesco Redi (1668): first scientific experiment to disprove abiogenesis.


life is independent of physical laws; there exists a special “life
force”; different life forms can arise from dead life; organic matter will
spontaneously generate new life; abiogenesis.


life is part of the physical world; formation of new organic
matter only requires proper physical, chemical and biological conditions;
living organisms are required to form new organisms of the same type;
“life begets life”.




Debunking Spontaneous Generation

Does abiogenesis still apply to microbes?

John Needham (1748):

hot soup experiments always grew microbes; interpreted as

strong support for spontaneous generation; actually sloppy technique.

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1767):

lengthy boiled broth experiments; microbes are in the air

and broth; others claimed boiling altered a “vital force”.

Louis Pasteur (1861):

settled the issue; left flasks open to air, but flasks were

necked” so microbes could not settle into the broth.

Linking Microbes to Human Disease

Early Epidemiology


= study of factors determining and influencing the frequency and
distribution of disease, injury and other health related events.)

Before Biological Inquiry:

evil spirits, punishment for sins,

Bakr Muhammed al
Razi (Rhazes) (900):

Arabic doctor; tested
relationship between urban location and rate of meat spoilage.

Giralmo Fracostoro (1546):

“contagion is an invisible infectious organism that
passes from one thing to another”; contact,

and air cause spread.

Ignaz Semmelweis (1847):

examine the cause of high incidence of puerperal
sepsis (maternal fever after childbirth), blood poisoning; dirty doctors.

John Snow (1854):

traced the pattern in cholera epidemic in London to the
municipal water supply; imported country
side water lowered incidence.

The “Diseased” Wine of France

Napoleon III: Had to
keep the sailors
happy, but it kept
going sour (vinegar).

Louis Pasteur (1857):

Asked why wine soured
& to cure the industry.

Discovered yeast and
fermentation; first
evidence of microbial

Discovered acetogenic
bacteria form vinegar
from wine


Is this like a disease?

“Germ Theory of Disease”

Koch (1876

1910): He and his students discovered causative

agents of numerous infectious diseases of humans. Success

attributed to meticulous experimental design (Koch’s Postulates)

and development of pure culture technology within his lab group.

Franny E. Hesse proposed use of agar.


1) Observe
diseased mice.

2) Isolate microbe
in pure culture.

3) Infect healthy
mice to yield same
disease (anthrax)

4) Isolate same
microbe as before.

(Modified version:
see Box 1.2)

Discovering Immunity

Edward Jenner (1798): cowpox as
smallpox vaccine (Latin

= cow)

Louis Pasteur (1881, 1885):

cholera, anthrax and rabies vaccines

Elie Metchnikoff (1884): phagocytosis

Emil von Behring (1890): diptheria
and tetanus antitoxins produced.

(Immunology = Branch of biology
that studies the humeral and cellular
immune responses.)

Agricultural and Environmental

Agostino Bassi (1835):

silk worm fungal disease

M.J. Berkeley (1845):

potato blight fungus

Martinus Beijerinck (1889, 1899):

root nodules; tobacco mosaic
virus (first virus).

Sergei Winogradsky (1887):

N & S cycles

Dr. Rita Colwell.

Ecology of pathogens in
marine environments

Director of the U. Maryland,
Centre for Marine

President of the American
Society for Microbiology

President of the American
Society for the Advancement
of Science.

Find some of your own favorite 20

century microbiologists!