History of Microbiology

Lecture Notes


1665 – Robert Hooke – start of cell theory

1676 – Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, first person to observe and describe microorganisms (MO), often referred to as the ÒFather of Microbiology.Ó


Spontaneous Generation – theory that living organisms arise from non-living material

1750Õs           John Needham – MOÕs in heated meat broth

1767         Lazzaro Spallanzani – sealed flasks

1860Õs           Louis Pasteur – gooseneck flask


Germ Theory of Disease

1834         Bossi – silkworm disease – fungus

1846         Berkeley – potato blight – fungus

1846         Ignaz Semmelweis – hand washing in hospitals

1857         Louis Pasteur – bacteria cause diseases in wine

1867         Joseph Lister – antiseptic surgery

1870Õs           Robert Koch – staining microorganisms   

Semi-solid media for growth (agar)

Pure culture techniques

Streak plates, pour plates, slant cultures

Nutrient broth/agar

1876 – proved a specific bacteria was the cause of anthrax


KochÕs Postulates

1.   MO is found in every diseased animal

2.   Cultivate MO in a pure culture.

3.   Use the MO to infect healthy animals.

4.   Re-isolate MO from the infected animals in step 3.


Discovered cause of bubonic plague, TB.

Demonstrated biological specificity of disease-causing MO.     



China and India – first vaccines

1798         Edward Jenner – cowpox used as vaccine for smallpox

1886         Louis Pasteur – attenuated vaccines

                  Fowl cholera, rabies, anthrax

1890         Behring and Kitasato – diphtheria antitoxin – gamma globulin

1884         Metchnikoff – discovers phagocytosis

1900         Paul Ehrlich – discovers antibodies



1910         Paul Ehrlich – develops arsenic compound to treat syphilis

1928         Alexander Fleming – discovered penicillin

            1940Õs           Florey – production of penicillin

1935         Domagk – sulfa drugs


General Microbiology

1805         Nicholas Appert – heat canning for food preservation


Louis Pasteur: other discoveries

1.   Fermentative process – result of microbial activity

2.   Discovered anaerobes (live w/o free O2) and aerobes

3.   Respiration vs. fermentation

4.   Pasteurization to kill spoilage MO in beer and wine (1886 – applied to milk)


1892   D. Iwanowsky – used filter techniques of Pasteur to discover viruses


S. Winogradsky (1856-1953)

M. Beijerinck (1851-1931)


Their discoveries include:

1.   Role MO play in carbon, nitrogen, sulfur cycles of the earth cycles of the earth

2.   Bacteria can live in inorganic environments

3.   Enrichment techniques