Chapter 67 : Microbiology Present and Future

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Microbiologists could be forgiven for feeling schizophrenic about their profession and hesitant about asserting how it is likely to develop in this millennium. On one hand, they sense that microbiology is at least as important to the future of the world as any other branch of science, and more so than most. The same comparison highlights the extraordinary vitality and intellectual coherence of present-day microbiology. On the other hand, very public signs have appeared in recent years to indicate that the subject has been absorbed or eclipsed by new, more meaningful disciplines. Forty years ago, virtually every university that embraced science boasted a department of microbiology. Many of those have now metamorphosed into units and centers of biotechnology or cell biology. However, despite some external appearances, microbiology remains a peculiarly distinctive craft, robustly free of the self-doubts to be found elsewhere in the scientific firmament. While the techniques of microbiology have changed considerably over the decades, as have those of genetics, biochemistry, and particle physics, its mission has endured with far greater clarity than those of other domains of science. In contrast to these valuable though limited pursuits, microbiology is the core discipline required for us to meet two major challenges we now face. The first is the threat, urgently announced in many papers and reports in recent years, of new, resurgent, and as yet unanticipated human infections. The second is the need to use microorganisms on a far greater scale than in the past to evolve clean industrial technologies.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. Microbiology Present and Future, p 314-317. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch67
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1. Fincham, J. R. S. 1993. Genetics in the United Kingdom—the last half-century. Heredity 71: 111 118.

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