Boundries of Microbiology?

Karl Roberts kr1 at PGSTUMAIL.PG.CC.MD.US
Mon Jun 28 12:08:51 EST 1999

It is very difficult to pidgeonhole an exact definition of microbiology
today given the points you have made and the growing and evolving body of
knowledge having to do with the subject.  In general, I define
microbiology as the study of biological entities which are, either during
one part of their life history or always, smaller than or barely visible
by the naked eye.  I like the term "biological entity" rather than
organism, since it can be used to describe a broad range of things
including viruses, immunoglobulins, viroids, and prions.  I hope this
Karl J. Roberts, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Prince George's Community College  

On 28 Jun 1999, Dr.Abhay Shendye wrote:

> Dear Netters,
> I have been doing microbiology for over 15 years now [I am Ph.D.]. I
> have been constantly thinking about exact scope of this subject.
> Everytime I think more, I am confused more and more.
> Initially, a simple description of microbiology to me was study of
> microbes - the tiny little friends that need the aid of microscope for
> the visualization. But then take example of mushrooms. They are microbes
> too! Added to the list of  non microscopic individuals are various fungi
> and even protozoa.
> Similarly if one tries to define microbes as unicellular/ prokaryotic
> etc. does not include all of them.
> Somebody said "microbes are those creatures which can't be fully studied
> without microscope". But with such a concept even human beings become
> microbes.
> It is because microbes receive immune response, even immunology is
> included in microbiology syllabus. So is the waste water treatment
> reactor design and fermenter design; both of which are hard-core
> engineering subjects.
> I understand that all these studies are necessary for a microbiologist,
> but they make the definition of  "What is microbiology?" more and more
> difficult. [consider botany or zoology for that matter. They can define
> the scope by defining the terms "plants"  or "animals".]
> Could somebody change the level of  my confusion [either way is
> acceptable!] by providing his/her version of definition of either
> "microbes" or "microbiology".
> Thanks
> Abhay

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