Boundries of Microbiology?

DAHD ultraviolet at tamu.edu
Mon Jun 28 09:38:52 EST 1999

In article <377776F1.7B121561 at pn3.vsnl.net.in>, abt at PN3.VSNL.NET.IN 
>Dear Netters,
>I have been doing microbiology for over 15 years now [I am Ph.D.]. 
>have been constantly thinking about exact scope of this subject.
>Everytime I think more, I am confused more and more.
>Could somebody change the level of  my confusion [either way is
>acceptable!] by providing his/her version of definition of either
>"microbes" or "microbiology".

I think this is something of a futile effort--In the early 1960s
it was relatively easy to define the field.  ASM published 2 journals-
J. Bacteriology and Bact. Reviews.  By the 1980s they had expanded
publications to 9 fields, each journal covering multiple 
sub-disciplines.  Many as you rightly point out are as much engineering
or medicine or biochemistry or genetics as they are 'microbiology' or
bacteriology.  Indeed, this entire field has lost its identity and lost
its way.  

How many departments of BACTERIOLOGY are left? 
How many departments of Microbiology are left--as opposed to
Microbiology and Immunology or Microbiology and Genetics or Microbiology
and Biochemistry.  

How many departments that are not primarily micro-departments teach
micro subjects-- e.g., Food Microbiology,  Fementation technology,
and so forth,  Soil science departments,  Poultry Science Departments
and so forth.

Microbiology as a distinct discipline has died.  It isn't dying. It is

Even in the Med schools, the students are really not taught microbiology
so much as infectious diseases.

And nowadays almost anyone who knows a little bit about pulse field
or PCR is a microbiologist, never mind that they might not know what
a differential medium is, or what one does with a Petroff-Hauser 

With regard to defining micro for the purposes of undergraduate 
teaching, I'd stick with basic bacteriology, include some metabolism,
some genetics, some diagnostics, some immunology and some genetics.
I'd disuss phage and a few of the medically important viruses. Maybe
throw in some food safety/foodborne illness stuff.

Environemental micro-- leave that to the soil scientists, the 
deep ocean explorers and so on.  Bioremediation, mention it somewhere.
Most of the toxicants that were such interesting little choices for
remediation are no longer manufactured-thank you EPA.

You've obviously posed a most difficult and unanswerable question.
What is micro-- like asking if a virus is alive or dead.  Endless
debate will ensue to no purpose.

Leave the parasites and protozoans to the zoologists, bless them.

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