Brief history of microbiology

Good Definition and Nature of the Work Microbiologists are biological scientists who study organisms so small that, generally, they can only be seen with a microscope.

Brief history of microbiology

To better understand the larger context in which they developed, however, let us first take a brief look at the history of fermented foods in general, and of the study of fermentation itself, especially food fermentations, including related disciplines such as mycology, bacteriology, and biochemistry.

Most of the textual references to publications issued before and not directly related to soyfoods do not have a corresponding citation in our bibliography.

Fermentation is the chemical transformation of organic substances into simpler compounds by the action of enzymes, complex organic catalysts, which are produced by microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, or bacteria.

Enzymes act by hydrolysis, a process of breaking down or predigesting complex organic molecules to form smaller and in the case of foods, more easily digestible compounds and nutrients.


For example, the enzyme protease all enzyme names have the suffix - ase breaks down huge protein molecules first into polypeptides and peptides, then into numerous amino acids, which are readily assimilated by the body.

The enzyme amylase works on carbohydrates, reducing starches and complex sugars to simple sugars. And the enzyme lipase hydrolyzes complex fat molecules into simpler free fatty acids.

These are but three of the more important enzymes. There are thousands more, both inside and outside of our bodies. In some fermentations, important by-products such as alcohol or various gases are also produced.

The word "fermentation" is derived from the Latin meaning "to boil," since the bubbling and foaming of early fermenting beverages seemed closely akin to boiling.

Fermented foods often have numerous advantages over the raw materials from which they are made. As applied to soyfoods, fermentation not only makes the end product more digestible, it can also create improved in many cases meatlike flavor and texture, appearance and aroma, synthesize vitamins including B, which is difficult to get in vegetarian diets Brief history of microbiology, destroy or mask undesirable or beany flavors, reduce or eliminate carbohydrates believed to cause flatulence, decrease the required cooking time, increase storage life, transform what might otherwise be agricultural wastes such as okara into tasty and nutritious human foods such as okara tempehand replenish intestinal microflora as with miso or Acidophilus soymilk.

Most fermentations are activated by either molds, yeasts, or bacteria, working singularly or together. The great majority of these microorganisms come from a relatively small number of genera; roughly eight genera of molds, five of yeasts, and six of bacteria.

An even smaller number are used to make fermented soyfoods: Molds and yeasts belong to the fungus kingdom, the study of which is called mycology. Fungi are as distinct from true plants as they are from animals.

The study of all microorganisms is called microbiology. While microorganisms are the most intimate friends of the food industry, they are also its ceaseless adversaries. They have long been used to make foods and beverages, yet they can also cause them to spoil. When used wisely and creatively, however, microorganisms are an unexploitable working class, whose very nature is to labor tirelessly day and night, never striking or complaining, ceaselessly providing human beings with new foods.

Like human beings, but unlike plants, microorganisms cannot make carbohydrates from carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. They need a substrate to feed and grow on. The fermented foods they make are created incidentally as they live and grow.

Definition and Nature of the Work

Human beings are known to have made fermented foods since Neolithic times. The earliest types were beer, wine, and leavened bread made primarily by yeasts and cheeses made by bacteria and molds.

These were soon followed by East Asian fermented foods, yogurt and other fermented milk products, pickles, sauerkraut, vinegar soured winebutter, and a host of traditional alcoholic beverages.

More recently molds have been used in industrial fermentation to make vitamins B-2 riboflavin and B, textured protein products from Fusarium and Rhizopus in Europe antibiotics such as penicillincitric acid, and gluconic acid.

Brief history of microbiology

Bacteria are now used to make the amino acids lysine and glutamic acid. Single-celled protein foods such as nutritional yeast and microalgae spirulina, chlorella are also made in modern industrial fermentations.

For early societies, the transformation of basic food materials into fermented foods was a mystery and a miracle, for they had no idea what caused the usually sudden, dramatic, and welcomed transformation. Some societies attributed this to divine intervention; the Egyptians praised Osiris for the brewing of beer and the Greeks established Bacchus as the god of wine.

Likewise, at many early Japanese miso and shoyu breweries, a small shrine occupied a central place and was bowed to daily. In ancient times fermentation joined smoking, drying, and freezing as basic and widely practiced food preservation techniques. Wang and Hesseltine note that "Probably the first fermentation were discovered accidentally when salt was incorporated with the food material, and the salt selected certain harmless microorganisms that fermented the product to give a nutritious and acceptable food.

A Brief History of Fermentation in the West. The origins of microbiology other than the general knowledge of fermented foods which existed worldwide since ancient times can be traced back to the invention of the compound microscope in the late s.

This relatively simple tool soon revolutionized man's knowledge of the heretofore invisible microbial world. In the Dutch merchant Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the greatest of the early microscopists, saw and reported one-celled organisms, which he called "animacules.

Then inusing a microscope that magnified the diameter of each object fold, he looked at yeast and found them to consist of tiny spheroids. While the protozoa were clearly alive, the yeast did not appear to be. No connection was drawn between the existence of these tiny organisms and the well known phenomenon of fermentation.

So for years after van Leeuwenhoek's pioneering observations, it was hardly thought that these minute organisms could be important enough to deserve serious study.A brief description about the history of microbiology.

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