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Darwin and Microbiology
Charles Darwin spent a few weeks during September and October of 1835 exploring the Galapagos Islands. His observations during that time reverberate deeply in the history of science because the features of the plants and animals that Darwin saw there contributed greatly to the development of his ideas of evolution by natural selection. Of these islands he remarked in The Voyage of the Beagle (1939), “The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself….” But compared to the myriad microscopic worlds present in every handful of Galapagos soil that Darwin set foot on, the archipelago would not be a “little world within itself” but a vast universe containing countless worlds of unimaginable diversity. For every grain of soil, every drop of water of our planet is rich with microbial life that lies there, waiting to be discovered.