©David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D.,
Professor of Biology and Chemistry
University of Cincinnati Clermont College,
Batavia OH 45103
Fracastorius first proposed
the germ theory of disease

This page has been accessed Counter times since 2 July 2007. 
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Semmelweis discovered
the importance of sterility
in medical operations


Black 6th: p 8-21

Man first thought disease to be punishment from God, then brought on by foul vapors (miasma) (malaria for instance)
Aesclepius classic Greek cult of healing     Drink the water and dream your cure.  Theater in Aesclepion.
Plato taught Aristotle Socrates taught Plato, and here Plato teaches Aristotle.
Aristotle  350 BC, Father of biology, taught Alexander the Great the Macedonian warrior, to boil drinking water & bury feces to prevent disease.
Girolamo Fracastorius  (1483–1553)1546  Theory of contagion: disease infection can be caused by minute bodies capable of self-replication, transmitted from infector to infected. Said to have named syphilis.  Treat by expelling "seeds" of malady rather than altering humoral balance.


1670s  improved microscope (See previous page on History of Microbiology)
Agostino Bassi 1834  First to show that a microorganism could cause disease in case of a fungal disease of silkworms (muscardine): contagious and could be transmitted naturally by direct contact or infected food, or experimentally by means of a pin previously sterilized in a flame.  Recommended use of disinfectants; separating the rows of feeding caterpillars; isolating and destroying infected caterpillars; and keeping the farms clean
Oliver Wendle Holmes 1843  Noted that it was safer to give birth at home than in hospital, postulated something present in hospital is causing disease (nosocomial disease).  Lectured on topic.
M.J. Berkeley 1845  Showed Irish potato blight (view of plant) caused by a fungus
Ignaz Semmelweis 1848  (P 14) In charge of lying-in hospital in Vienna. Childbirth death rate: Ward II midwives = 3%, Ward I, medical faculty: ~10%. Phys. friend died of autopsy wound, S&S same as puerperal fever. Proposed etiology: "cadaveric particles." Smell not removed by hand washing, but calcium hypochlorite: Ca(OCl)2 did. Chloride of lime washing reduced puerperal fever death rate 12.4% to 1.27%.Iatrogenic disease.
John Snow  1854  deduced contaminated Broad Street Pump (neighborhood) caused cholera epidemic in London.  Removed handle.
Joseph Lister 1860s  (p 14) Introduced use of antiseptic during surgery: phenol in surgical dressings and sprayed into the air. Wound infections dropped dramatically, thus due to bacteria.
Louis Pasteur 1865 (P 12) Demonstrated that spoilage of wine was due to abnormal microorganisms. Then asked by French gov to study PEBRINE: (pa-breen) another disease of silkworms, caused by a protozoan. Could be halted by identifying diseased worms, removing and destroying.
Davaine 1850 observed little thread-like bodies in blood of anthrax-killed animals
 Henle proposed that diseases might be directly caused by microorganisms. His student, Koch:
Robert Koch 1876  (P 13) rival of Pasteur, raced to find the cause of anthrax (coal, burning coal, from pustules & carbuncles in affected animals)disease of sheep and cattle. His lab.  First to demonstrate bacillary agent to be pathogen.
criteria by which a bacterium may be said to cause a disease suggested by his teacher, Henle.  Now called:


1. microscopic examination finds bacillus in blood of all animals with anthrax (in study of etiology of anthrax)
2.  single colony-isolate bacillus on solid media. (Developed the technique after observing colonies on a spoiled potato.)

3   injecte pure culture into healthy animals, they get anthrax.
4.  isolate same organism from animals experimentally given anthrax..

Chamberland 1884  Invented a porcelain filterfiltering assembly.  
Martinus Beijerinck showed that tobacco mosaic disease was caused by "filterable' agent (i.e., not bacteria) therefore. called virus.

PREVENTION, CURE OF DISEASE: vaccination, therapeutic agents:                

Edward Jenner
1798  Saw peasants do this in Turkey. Inoculated susceptible person with pus from cowpox lesion, conferred resistance to Small Pox. Vaccination comes from vache, cow in French.  Cowpox lesion.  Famous painting of an inoculation.
Louis Pasteur 1880 Cultured chicken cholera repeatedly, it lost its virulence but could still confer immunity when injected. Attenuated [towards thinness] strain = vaccine
Paul Erlich

1910 Searched for "magic bullet" would poison pathogen but not patient. Developed salvarsan, an arsenic compound against syphilis.

Alexander Fleming
1928 (P 18) Funky Lab. Another picture: young Fleming in Lab.  Noted inhibition of Staphylococcus growth on plate contaminated with Penicillium notatum. Discovered penicillin.