Bacteria, Education, Microbiology

The Discovery of Bacteria: A Leeuwenhoek Story

Author Fisayo Olusegun , 17-Sep-2020

Table of contents
Anthony van Leeuwenhoek and animalcules drawings

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and a drawing of animalcules


Some discover their aptitude for science by natural curiosity, which causes them to investigate their surroundings. In doing so, they find many hidden secrets that only curiosity like theirs could have revealed. The process of discovery is sometimes a thrill for these individuals. Developing theory and being responsible for discovery is the prize. However, an inquisitive nature alone doesn’t make one a scientist. Explorers, adventurers, reporters, and criminal investigators also lead lives based on it.

Something special happens when curiosity is coupled with an empirical mind. That combination begins to approach the scientific method. The only thing left is to provide a record of findings so that other scientists can attempt to falsify the results. Contesting a discovery is a natural part of the scientific method, and history shows that it has always been a core part.


Scientist By Nature

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did all of this and more. He used the scientific method to unearth the existence of previously unseen organisms, and he was in regular correspondence with the Royal Society in London, discussing his discovery.

Leeuwenhoek was a businessman by trade but a scientist by nature. His skill in grinding glass allowed him to produce single-lens microscopes that could magnify over 200 times. 

On 17th September 1683, Leeuwenhoek was the first to report the existence of bacteria seen through his microscopes. He called them little “animalcules.”

He discovered clearer and brighter images than any of his scientific fellows would achieve for centuries. This led to doubts and questions about the certainty of what he claimed to have seen.

It wasn’t until 1981 that Leeuwenhoek’s original specimens at the Royal Society were successfully photographed. Even this was done using one of his surviving microscopes. This finally dispelled the lingering disbelief that he indeed saw what he claimed he had discovered. 


The Father Of Microbiology

Leeuwenhoek had 112 of his 200 letters published in the journal of the Royal Society. He was one of the journal’s most prolific writers, touching on many aspects of biology and even mineralogy. 

However, Leeuwenhoek’s greatest delights and findings were in the field of microbiology. His discoveries are still informing the discipline and being proven true today, especially his reports on bacteria.


The Importance of the Discovery of Bacteria

The world is now very aware of the presence and importance of bacteria. Some bacteria can be harmful, but most are beneficial.

We know that bacteria are used to treat some of the foods we love, like yogurt and cheese. We know about using bacteria to preserve foods in fermentation and pickling. 

However, we also know bacteria are sometimes responsible for food spoilage or poisoning. Pathogenic bacteria may be transmitted in some foods, which can cause food poisoning. For example, the CDC warns that soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk carry a greater risk of causing a Listeria infection.

Bacteria’s importance to humans is seen in medicine and other industries. Bacterial infections and antibiotic remedies are now well known, but bacteria have been used for a host of other purposes, such as microbial leaching of precious metals in mining.


Real-life Data for Microbiology Studies

Just like Leeuwenhoek, modern students of microbiology can use real-life data. Lecturers like Dr. Monika Oli teach microbiology students using GIDEON because of its vast dataset and versatile toolkit. She knows it gives meaningful context to their studies.

At the time of writing, the GIDEON database includes 1,766 pathogenic bacteria, 154 mycobacteria, and 130 yeasts and algae. And the database is updated daily! 

The GIDEON Difference

GIDEON is one of the most well-known and comprehensive global databases for infectious diseases. Data is refreshed daily, and the GIDEON API allows medical professionals and researchers access to a continuous stream of data. Whether your research involves quantifying data, learning about specific microbes, or testing out differential diagnosis tools– GIDEON has you covered with a program that has met standards for accessibility excellence.

Fisayo Olusegun

Author & Freelance Writer. I am an Amazon-published author, a husband, and a father to a lovely daughter. My personal credo: Be full of light, inspire, provoke thought, and embody truth. Words are an invaluable way to achieve goals.

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