Spelling the Microbial Menu

Today is the birthday of Sergey Nikolayevich Winogradsky, a Russian microbiologist born in 1856 who helped put bacteriology on the scientific map.

Winogradsky discovered several groups of bacteria that play important roles in ecosystems. While studying sulfur bacteria in 1887, he found that the colorless species of these microbes obtain energy by oxidizing hydrogen sulfide to sulfur and then to sulfuric acid in the absence of light. A year later, he discovered microbes involved in the nitrogen cycle and placed them in two new genera, Nitrosomonas and Nitrosococcus.

Between 1893 and 1895, Winogradsky discovered and studied a new soil bacterium, Clostridium pasteurianum, that uses free nitrogen and grows in the absence of oxygen. He also developed new methods for studying soil microorganisms, particularly those that fix nitrogen in the root nodules of bean and pea plants. He died in 1953.

[Source: Britannica Online]

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