Scientist Spotlights & Famous Microbiologists
In our scientist spotlight and famous microbiologists section, 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 and present figures in microbiology.
In your typical microbiology class, you will hear about how Leeuwenhoek is known 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). Much of what he described was so detailed and precise we can identify what he saw today!
You've also probably heard of 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. Fermentation can create ethyl alcohol like yeast, acetic acids like the microbe in Kombucha, or lactic acid like what we see in yogurt.
Robert Koch is another microbiologist 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 figures we want to primarily focus on women in microbiology and Black microbiologists. Many of these people did astonishing things for microbiology that truly moved the field forward but because of the times their stories were seldom told and today much of them are forgotten. So while you may see a blog post or two on some of these well-known microbiologists we hope you will also enjoy our posts on these lesser-known microbiologists forgotten in history.
Check out our Black Lives Matter In Microbiology history to learn about William Augustus Hinton, Dr. Ruth Ella Moore, Dr. Jessie Isabelle Price, and many others. 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 of Untreated Syphilis In The Negro Male." 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 our microbial friends. 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 microbiologists like Margaret Pittman and even created a drink in her honor, The Pittman Pimm!
If none of these microbiologists 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 microbiologists as well, the ones you have heard of but I will not stop there. If you have suggestions of famous microbiologists we should cover in the future please connect with us and let us know!