History of Microorganisms' Discovery

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Last updated: June 17, 2019

History of microorganisms’ discovery Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the one of the first people to observe microorganisms, and used a microscope of his own design, and made one of the most important contributions to biology.

[18] Robert Hooke was the first to use a microscope to observe living things; his 1665 book Micrographia contained descriptions of plant cells. Before Leeuwenhoek’s discovery of microorganisms in 1675, it had been a mystery why grapes could be turned into wine, milk into cheese, or why food would spoil.Leeuwenhoek did not make the connection between these processes and microorganisms, but using a microscope, he did establish that there were forms of life that were not visible to the naked eye. [19][20] Leeuwenhoek’s discovery, along with subsequent observations by Lazzaro Spallanzani and Louis Pasteur, ended the long-held belief that life spontaneously appeared from non-living substances during the process of spoilage. Lazzaro Spallanzani found that boiling broth would sterilise it and kill any microorganisms in it.

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He also found that new microorganisms could only settle in a broth if the broth was exposed to the air. Louis Pasteur expanded upon Spallanzani’s findings by exposing boiled broths to the air, in vessels that contained a filter to prevent all particles from passing through to the growth medium, and also in vessels with no filter at all, with air being admitted via a curved tube that would not allow dust particles to come in contact with the broth. By boiling the broth beforehand, Pasteur ensured that no microorganisms survived within the broths at the beginning of his experiment.Nothing grew in the broths in the course of Pasteur’s experiment. This meant that the living organisms that grew in such broths came from outside, as spores on dust, rather than spontaneously generated within the broth.

Thus, Pasteur dealt the death blow to the theory of spontaneous generation and supported germ theory. In 1876, Robert Koch established that microbes can cause disease. He found that the blood of cattle who were infected with anthrax always had large numbers of Bacillus anthracis. Koch found that he could transmit anthrax from one animal to another by taking a small sample of blood from the nfected animal and injecting it into a healthy one, and this caused the healthy animal to become sick.

He also found that he could grow the bacteria in a nutrient broth, then inject it into a healthy animal, and cause illness. Based on these experiments, he devised criteria for establishing a causal link between a microbe and a disease and these are now known as Koch’s postulates. [21] Alhough these postulates cannot be applied in all cases, they do retain historical importance to the development of scientific thought and are still being used today. [2 ArchaeaArchaea are also single-celled organisms that lack nuclei. In the past, the differences between bacteria and archaea were not recognised and archaea were classified with bacteria as part of the kingdom Monera.

However, in 1990 the microbiologist Carl Woese proposed the three-domain system that divided living things into bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. [28] Archaea differ from bacteria in both their genetics and biochemistry. For example, while bacterial cell membranes are made from phosphoglycerides with ester bonds, archaean membranes are made of ether lipids. [29]Archaea were originally described in extreme environments, such as hot springs, but have since been found in all types of habitats. [30] Only now are scientists beginning to appreciate how common archaea are in the environment, with crenarchaeota being the most common form of life in the ocean, dominating ecosystems below 150 m in depth. [31][32] These organisms are also common in soil and play a vital role in ammonia oxidation.

[33] Eukaryotes Most living things which are visible to the naked eye in their adult form are eukaryotes, including humans. However, a large number of eukaryotes are also microorganisms.Unlike bacteria and archaea, eukaryotes contain organelles such as the cell nucleus, the Golgi apparatus and mitochondria in their cells. The nucleus is an organelle which houses the DNA that makes up a cell’s genome. DNA itself is arranged in complex chromosomes.

[34] Mitochondria are organelles vital in metabolism as they are the site of the citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation. They evolved from symbiotic bacteria and retain a remnant genome. [35] Like bacteria, plant cells have cell walls, and contain organelles such as chloroplasts in addition to the organelles in other eukaryotes.Chloroplasts produce energy from light by photosynthesis, and were also originally symbiotic bacteria. [ Unicellular eukaryotes are those eukaryotic organisms that consist of a single cell throughout their life cycle. This qualification is significant since most multicellular eukaryotes consist of a single cell called a zygote at the beginning of their life cycles. Microbial eukaryotes can be either haploid or diploid, and some organisms have multiple cell nuclei (see coenocyte).

However, not all microorganisms are unicellular as some microscopic eukaryotes are made from multiple cells. ]


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