How the microbial world saved evolution from the scylla of molecular biology and the charybdis of the modern synthesis

Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2009 Mar;73(1):14-21. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00002-09.


In this commentary, we provide a personal overview of the conceptual history of microbiology and molecular biology over the course of the last hundred years, emphasizing the relationship of these fields to the problem of evolution. We argue that despite their apparent success, all three reached an impasse that arose from the influence of dogmatic or overly narrow perspectives. Finally, we describe how recent developments in microbiology are realizing Beijerinck's vision of a field that is fully integrated with molecular biology, microbial ecology, thereby challenging and extending current thinking in evolution.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ecology / history*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Microbiology / history*
  • Microbiology / trends
  • Molecular Biology / history*
  • Molecular Biology / trends