Microbes and their fame through time
Microbes are everywhere; in and on our body, and present as a crucial part in every ecosystem. They have indispensable functions as they generate oxygen, recycle nutrients stored in organic matter to an inorganic form, fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into a usable form and facilitate digestion and nutrient availability. However, awareness on these facts has only emerged in relatively recent years.
Microbes have been around on Earth since far before the dawn of man, who just a couple of million years ago lived as hunter-gatherers. Around 10.000 BC the way of living evolved into the creation of small settlements with agriculture as a new food source. Domestication of animals lead to the introduction of a higher diversity of microbes that humans became exposed to. This caused animal microbes to transmit to humans, either directly or by insect carriers. It increased our immunity to a larger variety of infections but also brought diseases like the pox in humans. Without being conscious of the existence of microbes and their consequences for daily life, humans were using them in a beneficial way in their food production (amongst others beer, wine, bread and cheese), but also suffered from the pathological microbes causing leprosy, plaque, cholera and syphilis.
Around 1600 the first steps into microbiology were made by Hooke, followed by van Leeuwenhoek. Developments were slow, microscopes were rare and the knowledge of microbes was very limited. Especially Pasteur’s and Koch’s findings in the 1800’s boosted the development and knowledge around microbiology. Around ...