A History of Microbiology – An Infographic

By Nigel Mellors
In September 26, 2018
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Microbiology has a long and rich history, initially focused on the causes of infectious diseases but now including many practical applications of the science. Many people have contributed to microbiology over the years, but a man called Antonie Phillips van Leewenhoek is generally considered to be the ‘father of microbiology’. Other famous names include Robert Hooke, an English scientist made famous by his key observation with a microscope in the 1600’s, and Louis Pasteur, a French biologist, renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization.

The history of microbiology goes back a lot further than you may think though – Aristotle pondered the existence of microorganisms in 4 B. C when he suggested that living organisms are made up of cells.

However, the so-called ‘golden age of microbiology’ began in 1857, with the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, and lasted about 60 years. This is a period when many important discoveries were made, and techniques devised which are still used to this day.

A History of Microbiology – An Infographic


timeline of great events in the history of microbiology


Timeline of Microbiology Events


Here are some of the most significant discoveries in the history of microbiology:

1530 – Girolamo Fracastoro proposed that epidemic diseases are caused by transferable tiny particles or “spores” that could transmit infection by direct or indirect contact.

1665 – Robert Hooke published Micrographia, a book describing observations made with microscopes and telescopes. Hooke also coined the term cell for describing biological organisms.

1676 – Antonie van Leeuwenhoek observed water closely and was surprised to see tiny organisms – the first bacteria observed by man.

1768 – Lazzaro Spallanzani proposed that microbes move through the air and that they could be killed through boiling which paved the way for research by Louis Pasteur,

1810 – Nicholas Appert discovered that bacteria could not grow in foods in air-tight cans. His method of preservation became popularly known as appertization and later on as canning.

1835 – Agostino Bassi made the important generalization that many diseases of plants, animals, and man are caused by animal or vegetable parasites.

1861– Louis Pasteur introduced the terms aerobic and anaerobic in describing the growth of yeast at the expense of sugar in the presence or absence of oxygen.

1876 – Robert Koch’s discovery of anthrax bacillus in 1876 launched the field of medical bacteriology.

1884 – Hans Christian J. Gram develops a dye system for identifying bacteria [the Gram stain]. Bacteria which retain the violet dye are classified as gram-positive.

1929 – Alexander Fleming publishes the first paper describing penicillin and its effect on gram-positive microorganisms.


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