Fluorescence microscopic methods have been used to characterize the cell cycle of Bacillus subtilis at four different growth rates. The data obtained have been used to derive models for cell cycle progression. Like that of Escherichia coli, the period required by B. subtilis for chromosome replication at 37 degrees C was found to be fairly constant (although a little longer, at about 55 min), as was the cell mass at initiation of DNA replication. The cell cycle of B. subtilis differed from that of E. coli in that changes in growth rate affected the average cell length but not the width and also in the relative variability of period between termination of DNA replication and septation. Overall movement of the nucleoid was found to occur smoothly, as in E. coli, but other aspects of nucleoid behavior were consistent with an underlying active partitioning machinery. The models for cell cycle progression in B. subtilis should facilitate the interpretation of data obtained from the recently introduced cytological methods for imaging the assembly and movement of proteins involved in cell cycle dynamics.