Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (1795-1876), who became Professor of Medicine at Berlin 1827, turned to the study of microscopic organisms in water, soil, and dust, describing many new types of unicells, Protista, diatoms and general infusoria. Ehrenberg demonstrated the true nature of sedimentary rocks such as chalk, showing that they were composed of microscopic shells of ancient creatures.

Around 1828 Ehrenberg also introduced the new technical terms bakterium/bakteria to replace the vaguer "germ" and "miasma"; and in 1835 he coined bacillus for the spore-forming short rod-like organisms. Bacilluria, for general urinary infections, would follow in general usage later in the century (OED).

Ehrenburg also attempted to early classify his "Bakteria", as the "lowest members" of the Animal Kingdom (CF: 1). From 1837 he was made Fellow of the Royal Society of London, received the Wollaston Medal 1839, and was elected Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, in 1849. His book Recherches sur l'organisation des animaux infusoires, 1839, Paris: Bailliere et Cie, catalysed much later work in anatomy and pathology, geology, marine biology and so on, and undoubtedly aided the emergence of a science of bacteriology. Ehrenberg, with his microscope, was painted by Eduard.

Created 8 December 2016

Last modified 8 February 2023