Thousands of microbiologists work in laboratories and research centres across the world today, probably without much thought from the public. But these men and women play key roles in society today, it just so happens that a lot of what they do happens behind the scenes.
Most people would struggle to name a current ‘famous’ microbiologist. There are, however, some names in microbiology that will live forever.
Microbiology is the study of living organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Collectively known as microbes, this includes bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi, algae, protozoa, and prions.
Although we can’t see them, microbes play important roles in many processes such as biodegradation/biodeterioration, climate change and food spoilage. They affect our everyday lives, sometimes in the form of disease or illness.
The study of microbiology is important to help further understand how microbes work, how they can help us, and how to protect and improve human life. By making medicines for example, or in processing and manufacturing food and drinks.
Some of the most important discoveries in society have been made by now famous microbiologists. Discoveries that have helped protect or enhance human health. From the smallpox vaccine to identifying the link between papillomavirus and cervical cancer, microbiologists have had a huge impact on modern society.
Today, microbiologists work in a huge variety of areas and many different types of microbiology labs. The field includes areas such as environmental microbiology and medical microbiology.
Medical microbiology, alongside immunology and virology, are fields in the public spotlight now, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Microbiologists and scientists in these areas are helping develop vaccines, covid tests, and performing ongoing research to discover how we can best fight the pandemic in the future.
As you can see, microbiologists still play significant roles in society today but who were the biggest names in the field?
Below are three of the most recognisable names in microbiology. These are names that will be recognisable to anybody working in microbiology, and a large portion of the public too due to the discoveries made by these people.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek The Father of Microbiology
Leeuwenhoek is very famously referred to as the ‘father of microbiology’ and is one of the very first microbiologists.
Born in the Dutch Republic, in 1632, he is most known for being a pioneer in microscopes, making more than 500 optical lenses and creating at least 25 single-lens microscopes. Leeuwenhoek was the first person to observe and experiment with microbes. The name he gave to the microbes he observed ‘dierkens’ was translated into English as ‘animalcules’ which is from the Latin meaning ‘tiny animals’.
Leeuwenhoek was not a scientist originally – he was mostly self-taught, never wrote any books and was somewhat of a businessman. It was running his draper shop though that led to his work in microscopy – he originally wanted a lens to check the quality of thread when conventional magnifying lenses were found to be insufficient.
Louis Pasteur And The Germ Theory
Louis Pasteur is best known for inventing the technique to treat milk and stop bacterial contamination – pasteurisation, a word most people are familiar with.
Born in France in 1822, Pasteur was a biologist, microbiologist, and chemist and in addition to inventing pasteurisation, he created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax.
Pasteur was the pioneer of many theories and techniques still used in the medical field today and his work no doubt contributed to saving many thousands of lives. He is famous for coming up with ’germ theory’ – the idea that microorganisms known as pathogens or “germs” can lead to disease (now accepted science). Although Pasteur was not the first to theorise this, his experiments convinced the world of science that it was indeed correct.
Robert Koch The Father of Medical
Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch, born in Germany in 1843 is often regarded as ‘the father of medical’ for the numerous contributions he made to the field of human health and medicine.
Something most people will be familiar with is Koch’s work in isolating pure bacterial cultures. Before his work, bacterial cultures were grown on mediums such as potato slices, which is funny when we think about it today. Koch began experimenting with nutrients and gelatine to create a better growing medium, this eventually resulted in him utilising agar to grow and isolate pure cultures – a technique still used today.
The first person to observe the phenomenon of acquired immunity, Koch worked in the areas of Cholera, TB, and the work he is most well known for, his research on Anthrax. Koch’s work lives on today at the Robert Koch Institute, which he founded in 1891
Pro-Lab Diagnostics distributes laboratory equipment, products in the immunodiagnostics area and have a microbiology lab in Merseyside that is recognised in many areas. We also have a production facility where we manufacture a wide range of microbiology stains.