top of page

Celebrating Famous Scientists In Microbiology

Collage of famous scientists of microbiology from Black scientist to famous female scientists

In our famous scientist spotlights, you may not see too much on some of the great Fathers of Microbiology. We did not start with biographies of those you might expect like Leeuwenhoek, Louis Pasteur, or Robert Koch. We wanted to highlight some of the lesser-known historical figures. In this section, we focus on famous female scientists as well as famous black scientists that shaped microbiology to be what it is today! 

 Leeuwenhoek might be the most famous scientist to study microbiology, or rather the scientist who started the field of microbiology. He is regarded as the Father Of Microbiology. He never had any scientific training but a curious heart and eventually, he peered through a microscope to see our little microbial friends swimming about. Throughout his time he created over 500 different microscopes that barely resemble the microscopes we have today. He was the first person to see microbes in real life and even described their morphologies (shape). He was so detailed and precise, that scientists can take his notes and identify exactly what he was looking at! 

You've also probably heard of the famous scientist, Louis Pasteur, the promoter of Germ Theory. He got into microbiology over a heated debate between chemists and biologists, both claiming their field of study was the reason for the great elixir we call alcohol. Was alcohol created purely from chemical reactions or were those chemical reactions the products of our little microbial friends? Of course, it is our little microbial friends and Louis Pasteur was the one to show it. He showed that with the different kinds of fermentation there are different products being created by different microbes. 

Robert Koch is another famous scientist most have heard of. He is well known as the Father of Medical Microbiology. His claim to fame is to give the world Koch's Postulates. His initial interest was in the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, the causal agent of anthrax. But during his time people did not know this. His postulates stated that to prove a microbe was the causal agent of disease you had to do four things: (i) the microbial agent had to be present in every host that was experiencing the symptoms (ii) the agent needed to be isolated from the sick person and grown in pure culture (iii) the suspect microbe then needed to be inoculated into a healthy individual and the same symptoms should manifest., finally (iv) the same microbial agent needs to be isolated from the sick host. Together these steps help determine which microbes are the causal agents of disease. Koch's group is also known for several other great advancements in microbiology, like creating Agar plates which is still the main way we grow and study microbes today!

Although we may have one or two blog posts on some of these more famous scientists we want to primarily focus on famous female scientists and Black microbiologists. Many of these people did astonishing things for microbiology. They significantly moved the field forward. For instance, lambda phage, replicate plating and bacterial sex were all discovered by Esther Lederberg. These are the foundations of microbial genetics! Margaret Pittman is another famous female scientist whose work on vaccines has saved countless lives! Because of the times these women lived in, their stories are seldom told and today much of them are forgotten. These are the stories we'd like to share with you. 

For more famous scientists forgotten to time, check out our Black Lives Matter In Microbiology.   Here you can learn about other lesser-known, yet famous scientists like  William Augustus Hinton, Dr. Ruth Ella Moore, Dr. Jessie Isabelle Price. This series also includes stories of unethical treatment of Black Americans including what we believe is the bleakest chapter in medical microbiology history, The Tuskegee Syphilis Study. We also have highlighted the origins of HeLa cells with the tragic retelling of Henrietta Lacks's story.

In addition to our Black Lives Matter In Microbiology Series, we also highlight some of the greatest women microbiologists including Esther Lederberg who was stripped of her Nobel Prize by her pompous first husband. She was one of the great early scientists that study microbial genetics and really dug into the molecular biology of microbes. Or the story of The Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale. In 2020 Florence Nightingale turned 200 years old and her message of hygiene and handwashing to stop infectious diseases is still playing a prominent role in our current pandemic fight. We have also featured famous female scientists like Margaret Pittman.  We even created a drink in her honor, The Pittman Pimm! 

If none of these famous scientists sound familiar to you, then you are in the right spot! We strive to shed a light on these stories that history has cast into darkness. We will of course cover other famous scientists and microbiologists as well.  If you have suggestions of famous microbiologists we should cover in the future please connect with us and let us know! 

bottom of page