• Question: who is the father of microbiology?

    Asked by away499kay to Alexander dB, Bruno Silvester L, David B, Erin P, Georgia L, Kirsty R, Martin M, Michael S on 8 Feb 2024.
    • Photo: David Bremner

      David Bremner answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (not sure how to pronounce it) who was Dutch is credited as the inventor of the microscope and thought to be the first microbiologist.

    • Photo: Bruno Silvester Lopes

      Bruno Silvester Lopes answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      Although Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (made approx 500 microscopes) is considered father of microbiology, Louis Pasteur (known for germ theory) is considered father of modern microbiology. Robert Koch (discovered TB, cholera and anthrax bacteria) is the father of medical bacteriology 😃

    • Photo: Alexander de Bruin

      Alexander de Bruin answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      As the others have said, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the first person to extensively document microorganisms, and Louis Pasteur, who, amongst other things, actually coined the term “microbiology”.

    • Photo: Erin Pallott

      Erin Pallott answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      Everyone has mentioned a lot of the key people! Antonie van Leeuwenhoek invented the first microscope. He used it to observe tiny moving creatures in the 1670s which he called animacules. These animacules were microorganisms! We just didn’t know it yet!

      It wouldn’t be until much later that we learned and accepted that microorganisms can spread disease (germ theory). Louis Pasteur is credited with proving/confirming this germ theory, but there were other people who tried to get this across, when other medics and scientists assumed disease still came from “bad air”.

      Another important person is Ignaz Semmelweis. He was a Hungarian doctor who noticed that women coming into hospitals to give birth were dying more when their doctors had been in contact with people with fever and disease. He had realised that the disease was contagious! He suggested that handwashing would prevent disease. He was of course right, but at the time this was not accepted. He continued fighting for handwashing and better hygiene all his life, and he was even taken to an insane asylum where he sadly died. Now that we know better, he is known as the saviour of mothers.

      There are lots more people who were important to starting and understanding microbiology. John Snow (father of epidemiology) is another important person who made his discoveries about disease in London!

    • Photo: Georgia Lambert

      Georgia Lambert answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      This doesn’t exactly answer your question but I just wanted to mention a couple of the very cool historical women (the mothers of microbiology?) who contributed to our core understanding of microbiology!

      Marjory Stephenson – did some fundamental work on bacterial metabolism (how bacteria get energy and nutrients) and was the founder of the Society for General Microbiology.

      Mary Hunt – Alexander Fleming may have discovered penicillin but he wasn’t the person who figured out how to mass produce it so that it could be used as an antibiotic worldwide. This was largely done by Ernst Chain, Howard Florey AND Mary Hunt whose expertise in mould was instrumental.

      June Almeida – She developed a technique that allowed us to see viruses. Her method produced some of the first high-quality photos of HIV and the first human coronavirus.

      And I am sure there are loads more examples 👩‍🔬

    • Photo: Kirsty Ross

      Kirsty Ross answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      Adding to Georgia’s point about women of microbiology, I also like the story of Lady Mary Montagu who encouraged the spread of variolation as a technique in preventing smallpox, the only disease we have ever eradicated.
      https://massivesci.com/articles/lady-mary-montagu-variolation-smallpox-our-science-hero/

    • Photo: Martin McCoustra

      Martin McCoustra answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      I’ll be honest and admit defeat on that one… Though you could look it up on Google!

    • Photo: Michael Schubert

      Michael Schubert answered on 8 Feb 2024:


      You’ve had so many great answers to this question! No kind of science relies on just one or a few people, so even though they all have their famous names, most of science happens through collaboration. That’s even more true nowadays than ever before, because we know so much and have such complicated instruments that people with different areas of expertise need to work together to learn even more.

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