Viruses, Bacteria, Protists, and Fungi

What period of time has come to be known as the golden age of microbiology?

The era known as the “golden age” of microbiology began in 1857, with the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, and lasted about 60 years. During this period of time, there were many important scientific discoveries. Joseph Lister’s (1827–1912) practice of treating surgical wounds with a phenol solution led to the advent of aseptic surgery. The advancements Paul Ehrlich (1854–1915) made to the theory of immunity synthesized the “magic bullet”, an arsenic compound that proved effective in treating syphilis in humans.

In 1884 Elie Metchnikoff (1845–1916), an associate of Pasteur, published a report on phagocytosis. The report explained the defensive process in which the body’s white blood cells engulf and destroy microorganisms. In 1897 Masaki Ogata reported that rat fleas transmitted bubonic plague, ending the centuries-old mystery of how plague was transmitted. The following year, Kiyoshi Shiga (1871–1957) isolated the bacterium responsible for bacterial dysentery. This organism was eventually named Shigella dysenteriae.

During the “golden age” of microbiology, researchers identified the specific microorganism responsible for numerous infectious diseases. The following chart identifies many of these diseases, their infectious agent, who discovered them, and the year they were discovered.


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