MICROBIOLOGY 101/102 INTERNET TEXT
CHAPTER I: A BRIEF HISTORY OF MICROBIOLOGY
MICROBIOLOGY | GENETICS | MEDICAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ANCIENT MICROBIOLOGICAL HISTORY
Ancient man recognized many of the factors involved in disease. Early civilizations on Crete, India, Pakistan and Scotland invented toilets and sewers; lavatories, dating around 2800 BC, have been found on the Orkney islands and in homes in Pakistan about the same time. One archaeologist has stated that “The high quality of the sanitary arrangements [in ~2500 BC] could well be envied in many parts of the world today”. In Rome, 315 AD, the public lavatories were places where people routinely socialized and conducted business. Ten to twenty people could be seated around a room, with their wastes being washed away by flowing water; it must have been difficult to “stand on your dignity" under such circumstances. The Chinese used TOILET PAPER as early as AD 589. In Europe moss, hay and straw were used for the same purpose. I can personally attest to the use as late as 1962 of "slick magazines" as toilet paper in certain European camp grounds.
The first cities to use water pipes (of clay) were in the Indus Valley of Pakistan around 2700 BC. Metal water pipes were used in Egypt (2450 BC) and the palace of Knossos on Crete around 2000 BC had clay pipes. Rome built elaborate aqueducts and public fountains throughout its empire to insure a clean supply of water for its citizens. Rome had a “WATER COMMISSIONER” who was responsible for seeing that the water supply was kept adequate and clean; the punishment for pollution of the water supply was DEATH. Lead was commonly used for Roman pipes and the subsequent fall of the Roman empire has been related by some to the effects of lead on the Roman brain.
Most ancient peoples recognized that some diseases were communicable and isolated individuals thought to carry “infections”. An example of this is the universal shunning of lepers, which occurs even today. When the Black Death struck Europe, entire villages were abandoned as people fled in an effort to escape the highly infectious plague. Similarly, in the Middle Ages the rich of Europe fled to their country homes when small pox struck in an effort to escape its terrible consequences. The fact that people who recovered from a particular disease were immune to that disease was probably recognized many different times in many places. Often these survivors were expected to nurse the ill. Greek and Roman physicians routinely prescribed diet and exercise as a treatment for ills.
Sadly, we know that this knowledge did not help most of our ancestors and that the human life span was, until the last 200 years, more often than not cut short due to infectious disease. Even today approximately 15,000,000 CHILDREN DIE PER YEAR, mainly from infectious diseases that are preventable with basic sanitation, immunization and simple medical treatments. One might honestly question just how far we have come in our treatment of disease. An excellent synopsis of the history of Microbiology (also of chemistry and general biology) can be seen by visiting this site.
Ancient people had certainly seen masses of microbes, such as mold and bacterial colonies, on spoiled food, but it is doubtful if anyone considered that they were VIEWING living organisms. Small boys and maybe a few love-sick adults staring into a clear pond, must have seen tiny specks moving rapidly about and some may have considered them living creatures, but to express this to their friends would be equivalent to us telling our friends that we’d seen a flying saucer.
The first person to report seeing microbes under the microscope was an Englishman, Robert Hooke. Working with a crude compound microscope he saw the cellular structure of plants around 1665. He also saw fungi which he drew. However, because his lens were of poor quality he was apparently unable to “see” bacteria. Using the dissecting microscope in laboratory exercises # 1 and 2 you see fungi at a magnification similar to that seen by Hooke, but without the distortion of poor lenses.
THE FIRST MICROBIOLOGIST
Figure 1. Anton van Leeuwenhoek. A classical example of serendipity. By wanting better magnifying lens with which to judge the quality of the cloth he was buying Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria.
Anton van Leeuwenhoek was a man born before his time. Although not the FIRST TO DISCOVER THE MICROSCOPE or to use magnifying lens, he was the first to see and describe bacteria. We know that he was a “cloth merchant” living in Delft Holland. and that he used magnifying lens to view the quality of the weave of the merchandise he purchased. He traveled to England in 1668 to view English cloth and there he saw drawings of magnifications of cloth much greater than any of the current lens available in Holland would do. He returned to Holland and took up lens grinding. Being meticulous, he developed his lens grinding to an art and in the process tested them by seeing how much detail he could observe with a given lens. One can guess that he chanced to look at a sample of pond water or other source rich in microbes and was amazed to see distinct, uniquely shaped organisms going, apparently purposefully, about their lives in a tiny microcosm. He made numerous microscopes from silver and gold and viewed everything he could including the scum on his teeth and his semen. His best lens could magnify ~
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So, guess who is going to try to live on their own by July?