Branch and specialty of biology
An agar plate streaked with microorganisms

Bacteriology is the branch and specialty of biology that studies the morphology, ecology, genetics and biochemistry of bacteria as well as many other aspects related to them. This subdivision of microbiology involves the identification, classification, and characterization of bacterial species.[1] Because of the similarity of thinking and working with microorganisms other than bacteria, such as protozoa, fungi, and viruses, there has been a tendency for the field of bacteriology to extend as microbiology.[2] The terms were formerly often used interchangeably.[3] However, bacteriology can be classified as a distinct science.


Bacteriology is the study of bacteria and their relation to medicine. Bacteriology evolved from physicians needing to apply the germ theory to test the concerns relating to the spoilage of foods and wines in the 19th century. Identification and characterizing of bacteria being associated to diseases led to advances in pathogenic bacteriology. Koch's postulates played a role into identifying the relationships between bacteria and specific diseases. Since then, bacteriology has had many successful advances like effective vaccines, for example, diphtheria toxoid and tetanus toxoid. There have also been some vaccines that were not as effective and have side effects for example, typhoid vaccine. Bacteriology has also provided discovery of antibiotics.[citation needed]


My work, which I've done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof.

— Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, in a letter dated 12 June 1716.[4][5]

Antony van Leeuwenhoek remains one of the most imperfectly understood figures in the origins of experimental biology. The popular view is that Leeuwenhoek worked in a manner that was essentially crude and undisciplined, using untried methods of investigation that were lacking in refinement and objectivity. He has often been designated as a 'dilettante.' His microscopes, furthermore, have been described as primitive and doubt has been expressed over his ability to have made many of the observations attributed to him. Recent research shows these views to be erroneous. His work was carried out conscientiously, and the observations were recorded with painstaking diligence. Though we may see evidence of his globulist understanding of organic matter (and indeed, this view has frequently been cited as evidence of his observational inadequacies), this minor preoccupation cannot detract from two firm principles that underlie his work: (a) a clear ability to construct experimental procedures which were, for their time, rational and repeatable, and (b) a willingness both to fly in the face of received opinion – for example, over the question of spontaneous generation – and to abandon a previously held belief in the light of new evidence. In his method of analysing a problem, Leeuwenhoek was able to lay many of the ground rules of experimentation and did much to found, not only the science of microscopy, but also the philosophy of biological experimentation.

— Brian J. Ford, Leeuwenhoek scholar, 1992[6]

Leeuwenhoek is universally acknowledged as the father of microbiology. He discovered both protists and bacteria. More than being the first to see this unimagined world of ‘animalcules', he was the first even to think of looking—certainly, the first with the power to see. Using his own deceptively simple, single-lensed microscopes, he did not merely observe, but conducted ingenious experiments, exploring and manipulating his microscopic universe with a curiosity that belied his lack of a map or bearings. Leeuwenhoek was a pioneer, a scientist of the highest calibre, yet his reputation suffered at the hands of those who envied his fame or scorned his unschooled origins, as well as through his own mistrustful secrecy of his methods, which opened a world that others could not comprehend.

As the first acknowledged microscopist and microbiologist in history, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to undisputedly discover (observe), study, describe, conduct scientific experiments with a large array of microscopic organisms (including bacteria, which he called “animalcules”) and relatively determine their size, using single-lensed microscopes of his own design.[7][8][6][9][5][10]
Statue of Koch in Berlin
Louis Pasteur in his laboratory, painting by A. Edelfeldt in 1885

The discovery of the connection of microorganisms to disease can be dated back to the nineteenth century, when German physician Robert Koch introduced the science of microorganisms to the medical field.[11] He identified bacteria as the cause of infectious diseases and process of fermentation in diseases. French scientist Louis Pasteur developed techniques to produce vaccines. Both Koch and Pasteur played a role in improving antisepsis in medical treatment. This had an enormous positive effect on public health and gave a better understanding of the body and diseases. In 1870-1885 the modern methods of bacteriology technique were introduced by the use of stains and by the method of separating mixtures of organisms on plates of nutrient media. Between 1880 and 1881 Pasteur produced two successful vaccinations for animals against diseases caused by bacteria and it was successful. The importance of bacteria was recognized as it led to a study of disease prevention and treatment of diseases by vaccines. Bacteriology has developed and can be studied in agriculture, marine biology, water pollution, bacterial genetics and biotechnology.[12][13][14]

See more for


  1. ^ Wassenaar, T. M. "Bacteriology: the study of bacteria". www.mmgc.eu. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  2. ^ Ward J. MacNeal; Herbert Upham Williams (1914). Pathogenic micro-organisms; a text-book of microbiology for physicians and students of medicine. P. Blakiston's Sons. pp. 1. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  3. ^ Poindexter, Jeanne Stove (30 November 1986). Methods and special applications in bacterial ecology. Springer. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-306-42346-8. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  4. ^ Kelly, Kate: The Scientific Revolution and Medicine: 1450–1700. (Facts on File, 2009, ISBN 978-0816072071, p. 81)
  5. ^ a b c Lane, Nick (6 March 2015). "The Unseen World: Reflections on Leeuwenhoek (1677) 'Concerning Little Animal'". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 370 (1666): 20140344. doi:10.1098/rstb.2014.0344. PMC 4360124. PMID 25750239.
  6. ^ a b Ford, Brian J. (1992). "From Dilettante to Diligent Experimenter: a Reappraisal of Leeuwenhoek as microscopist and investigator". Biology History. 5 (3).
  7. ^ Dobell, Clifford (1932). Antony van Leeuwenhoek and His "Little Animals": being some account of the father of protozoology and bacteriology and his multifarious discoveries in these disciplines (Dover Publications ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
  8. ^ Corliss, John O (1975). "Three Centuries of Protozoology: A Brief Tribute to its Founding Father, A. van Leeuwenhoek of Delft". The Journal of Protozoology. 22 (1): 3–7. doi:10.1111/j.1550-7408.1975.tb00934.x. PMID 1090737.
  9. ^ Toledo-Pereyra, Luis H.: The Strange Little Animals of Antony van Leeuwenhoek — Surgical Revolution, in Surgical Revolutions: A Historical and Philosophical View. (World Scientific Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-9814329620)
  10. ^ Chung, King-thom; Liu, Jong-kang: Pioneers in Microbiology: The Human Side of Science. (World Scientific Publishing, 2017, ISBN 978-9813202948). "We may fairly call Leeuwenhoek “The first microbiologist” because he was the first individual to actually culture, see, and describe a large array of microbial life. He actually measured the multiplication of the bugs. What is more amazing is that he published his discoveries."
  11. ^ Lakhtakia R (February 2014). "The Legacy of Robert Koch". 14 (1). Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal. PMC 3916274. PMID 24516751. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Kreuder‐Sonnen, Katharina (2016). "History of Bacteriology". eLS. Wiley. pp. 1–11. doi:10.1002/9780470015902.a0003073.pub2. ISBN 9780470015902.
  13. ^ Baron S, ed. (1996). "Introduction to Bacteriology". Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. ISBN 0-9631172-1-1. PMID 21413299. NBK8120.
  14. ^ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Bacteriology.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Sept. 2010, www.britannica.com/science/bacteriology. Retrieved 22 November 2017

Further reading

  • McGrew, Roderick, ed. (1985). "brief history". Encyclopedia of Medical History. McGraw-Hill. pp. 25–30. ISBN 0070450870.

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