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Greatest contributor in Microbiology

Updated on June 1, 2012

All contribution in science are important. Even a smallest of contribution can make a great difference and it has been proved several times.

Few days back I was debate among we friends that who is the greatest contributor in microbiology among the pioneer scientists Antony van Leeuwenhoek, Sir Edward Jenner and Robert Kotch. It was really perplexing as all of them invented something unique based on which the microbial studies of research and medicine research is prospering today. Though it is very difficult to decide still I was trying to decide logically as to whom the chair of 'greatest contributor' should get alloted.

Antony van Leeuwenhoek is known as the father of microbiology. He is the first one who not only invented microscopes used for studying microorganism but also the first one to observesingle celled organisms which are today well known as microorganisms (he used the term animalcules). He is the first one to announce the world of microbiology which comprises of bacteria, protozoa, spermatozoa. So I feel without his contribution starting from constructing different types of microscopic lenses with resolutions to identify microorganisms till establishingexistence of bacteria, protozoa, spermatozoa microbiology would have remained an unknown and unexplored world and won’t have attained the height today because of which we are blessed to medicines to combat different diseases and treat them and study them to a different level.

Almost after 25 years of his demise came Sir Edward Jenner who established another aspect of microbiology which is now known as Immunology. Immunology broadly deals with how ourbody protects and recovers itself ( internal mechanisms) when get infected by disease causingagents called microorganisms(pathogens). He is the first one to establish Vaccination as a meansto protect our body from deadly diseases like Smallpox. He established that if a person is vaccinated with infection from cow pox , and later infected with small pox viruses , he will remain unaffected by that. His invention helps to save people across the world from then on andeven today that we get vaccinated against all deadly diseases is because of him only. That’s why he is known as father of Immunology.

Robert Koch is again another pioneer in the field of microbiology and is known as the father of bacteriology. He is the first one to establish new isolation and plating techniques for bacteria . Sterilization of surgical instruments with heat, Agar plate (using agar as bacterial growth medium) and Petri plates (named after its inventor who was his helper) got established by him and are still widely used in microbiology. He was the first one to discover bacteria causing tuberculosis (mycobacterium tuberculosis) and establish Koch’s postulate which defines when an organisms can be declared as a disease causing agent. He was also awarded Novel prize for his work.

Contribution of both Robert Koch and Edward Jenner is of great importance, as it gave new dimension to modern medicine and established different aspects of microbiology like Immunology and bacteriology , but still going back to the basics, to study those microorganisms, isolating those disease causing agent and constructing a vaccine a vaccine wont have been possible without the existence of microscopes and knowledge of microorganisms which was first contributed by Antony Van Leeuwenhoek. Surprisingly, when I consulted one of my classmate for her opinion on who’s contribution is more important among these three microbiologist, she also agreed to the fact that Antony van Leeuwenhoek’s contribution should be considered most important. She also feels that though later discovery of vaccination against small pox and Koch’s Postulate showed new direction to the science of medicine, but that was only possible because people already knew about existence of microorganisms and there were instruments already available to study them for which Antony Van Leeuwenhoek should get the credit.


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    • Tim Sandle profile image

      Tim Sandle 3 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      Robert Koch gets my vote.

    • Harsha Vardhana R profile image

      Harsha Vardhana R 5 years ago from Bangalore

      Thank you, Dona.

      True, each of them have put enormous effort in spite of disappointments and social/religious oppositions.

      Also I would say we need to give due credit ancient experts too (Indian, Chinese and European). Over time, their knowledge was destroyed or corrupted. Many times, it appears like most of the modern discoveries are re-discoveries. That doesn't make the modern any less valuable.