The word MICROBIOLOGY describes exactly what the discipline is: the study of small living things. MICRO = small, BIO = living, and LOGY = to study. Microbiology (or specifically, bacteriology) is still a very young science and not yet completely understood.
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), a cloth trader from Delft, is the founding father of microbiology. He used home-made microscopes to discover the invisible world of micro-organisms.
Fanny Hesse, acknowledged as the mother of microbiology, whose birthday would have been today, is best known for her work developing agar for cell culture.
Microbiology essentially began with the development of the microscope. Although others may have seen microbes before him, it was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch draper whose hobby was lens grinding and making microscopes, who was the first to provide proper documentation of his observations.
Microbiology is the study of all living organisms that are too small to be visible with the naked eye. This includes bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa and algae, collectively known as ‘microbes’.
The discipline focuses on the structure, function, and classification of these organisms and looks for ways to exploit and control their activities.
Microbiology research encompasses all aspects of these microorganisms such as their behavior, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and physiology, along with the pathology of diseases that they cause.
Before microbiologists can solve the problems caused by microbes, or exploit their abilities, they have to find out how microbes work. They can then use this knowledge to prevent or treat disease, develop new technologies and improve our lives in general. Microbiologists are essential in helping us to treat diseases.