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Mark O. Martin

Dear Dr. Yarmolinsky: I don't mean to go all Santayana on you, but there is not much interest in history among my microbiology students (not entirely true; I get one or two each year who find it as interesting as I do). Anyway, your point is *supremely* important.

In fact, as a well known microbial supremacist, I have pointed out to all of my students over the years (to the patient head shaking of my colleagues) that microbiology has *driven* the major advances in biology. What would biochemistry be without microbes? I certainly teach how Kluyver pushed the "comparative biochemistry" concept on science---that what was relevant to us, biochemically, was relevant to other microbial systems, and vice versa. The same thing is true of genetics; I appreciate pea plants and Drosophila as much as the next geneticist, but microbial systems led to a quantum leap in our understanding of genetics (mad props to the Lederbergs for leading the way). Ditto the very fabric of molecular biology, ranging from the structure of TMV to Taq polymerase and all points in between. And now...we are starting to see how microbial systems inform and advance ecological and evolutionary questions.

So...even if the students didn't bring this up, I proselytized to them often about the debt that all of biology owes the Small Masters (which is what I call the microbes). I wish there were more courses that I could teach...the history of microbiology is important, indeed! Thanks for your comment.

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