A Brief History of Microbiology
Development of microscopy:
- Aristotle (384-322)
and others believed that living organisms could develop from non-living
- 1590: Hans
and Zacharias Janssen (Dutch lens grinders) mounted two lenses in a
tube to produce the first compound microscope.
- 1660: Robert
Hooke (1635-1703) published "Micrographia", containing drawings and
detailed observations of biological materials made with the best compound
microscope and illumination system of the time.
- 1676: Anton
van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) was the first person to observe microorganisms.
- 1883: Carl
Zeiss and Ernst Abbe pioneered developments in microscopy (such as
immersion lenses and apochromatic lenses which reduce chromatic aberration)
which perist until the present day.
- 1931: Ernst
Ruska constructed the first electron microscope.
This eventually led to:
- 1688: Francesco
Redi (1626-1678) was an Italian physician who refuted the idea of spontaneous
generation by showing that rotting meat carefully kept from flies will
not spontaneously produce maggots.
- 1836: Theodor
Schwann (1810-1882) helped develop the cell theory of living organisms,
namely that that all living organisms are composed of one or more cells and
that the cell is the basic functional unit of living organisms.
- 1861: Louis
Pasteur's (1822-1895) famous experiments with swan-necked flasks finally
proved that microorganisms do not arise by spontaneous generation.
Proof that microbes cause disease:
- 1546: Hieronymus
Fracastorius (Girolamo Fracastoro) wrote "On Contagion" ("De contagione
et contagiosis morbis et curatione"), the the first known discussion of the
phenomenon of contagious infection.
- 1835 Agostino
Bassi de Lodi showed that a disease affecting silkworms was caused by
a fungus - the first microorganism to be recognized as a contagious agent
of animal disease.
- 1847: Ignaz
Semmelweiss (1818-1865), a Hungarian physician who decided that doctors
in Vienna hospitals were spreading childbed fever while delivering babies.
He started forcing doctors under his supervision to wash their hands before
- 1857: Louis
Pasteur proposed the "germ theory" of disease.
- 1867: Joseph
Lister (1827-1912) introduced antiseptics in surgery. By spraying carbolic
acid on surgical instruments, wounds and dressings, he reduced surgical mortality
due to bacterial infection considerably.
- 1876: Robert
Koch (1843-1910). German bacteriologist was the first to cultivate anthrax
bacteria outside the body using blood serum at body temperature. Building
on pasteur's "germ theory", he subsequently published "Koch's postulates"
(1884), the critical test for the involvement of a microorganism in a disease:
This eventually led to:
- The agent must be present in every case of the disease.
- The agent must be isolated and cultured in vitro.
- The disease must be reproduced when a pure culture of the agent is inoculated into a susceptible host.
- The agent must be recoverable from the experimentally-infected host.
- Development of pure culture techniques
- Stains, agar, culture media, petri dishes
L.M.Prescott et al.
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