History of Microbiology

1. Microorganism Speculation

Pre-microbiology, the possibility that microorganisms existed was discussed for many centuries before their actual discovery in the 17th century. The existence of unseen microbiological life was postulated by Jainism, which is based on Mahavira's teachings as early as 6th century BCE. In his first century book, On Agriculture, Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro was the first known to suggest the possibility of disease spreading by yet unseen organisms. In his book, he warns against locating a homestead near swamps because "there are bred certain minute creatures that cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases. " In The Canon of Medicine (1020), Abū Alī ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) hypothesized that tuberculosis and other diseases might be contagious. In 1546, Girolamo Fracastoro proposed that epidemic diseases were caused by transferable seed-like entities that could transmit infectiopn by direct or indirect contact, or even without contact over long distances. All these early claims about the existence of microorganisms were speculative and were not based on any data or science. Microorganisms were neither proven, observed, nor correctly and accurately described until the 17th century. The reason for this was that all these early studies lacked the microscope.