The often quoted sentence from the book of Wisdom "Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight" is nowadays enlightened by the last results in Science. Following the emergence of both arithmetics and geometry, the author shows how the "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" (Wigner) is amazing in contempory Physics. Numbers are there in quantum physics and geometry is present both in this theory and in Einstein's theory of relativity. But Gödel's theorem is there to temperate a willingness to have at hand a theory of all reality. Rota used to pinpoint "the pernicious influence of Mathematics on Philosophy" a reason for the author to make the point on the new "metaphysics of numbers" which is pervading all the modern philosophy.
From this highly informative book, rich in historical examples and anecdotes, one realizes that an endless war is still raging between microbes and men. The stories recounted here remind us of the past eras when both, the rich and poor paid heavily for infectious diseases and consequently had a much shorter life expectancy than us. Scores of epidemics have left their mark on world history and often altered its course. Since millions of years, innumerable, ubiquitous, microscopic life forms have lived alongside and at times attacked human, animal and plant life. In the late 1960s, with the advent of efficient methods of diagnosis, development of protective sera and vaccines, therapeutic antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics, insecticides, etc., one believed that the war against microbes would fade out or even disappear. However, there was but a short truce. Since then, a good thirty-odd infectious agents have emerged or re-emerged and spread to occupy new geographical niches, for example, agents of legionellosis and mad cow disease, or viruses like Ebola, HIV, SARS, Nipah, Hendra, Chicungunya, West Nile, dengue fever, bird flu etc. Currently about one-third of human deaths are due infectious diseases. While man is often a victim of these diseases, particularly in the Southern hemisphere, he is also largely responsible for their spread. This is due to several reasons: changes in human life-style and social behavior, globalization and free trade, lack of adequate hygiene and epidemiological surveillance in some countries, as well as global warming that promotes spread of diseases and arthropod vectors. Moreover, man is also responsible for the dangerous use of microbial pathogenic agents in biological warfare or terrorism. The fight is on. This is what the two authors, Jean Freney and François Renaud, want to remind us of in Microbes at War . May this book find a wide audience among the well-informed as well as the simply curious.
Those who are interested in bacteriology will find in this book explanations of the different fundamental concepts of bacteriology as well as the discovery of various bacteria. What fundamental roles did Richard Petri or Walther Hesse play in the big developments of our discipline? Did Antoni van Leeuwenhoek really invent the microscope? How did Hans Joachim Christian Gram describe the staining which has been the basis of bacterial identification for so many years? What influences did Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch have on the great scientific minds of the time? Writing this kind of book was not easy; one of the major difficulties was to create limits on dates and between disciplines. Only by observing the tiny living world of microbes through the eye of a microscope could the pioneers of microbiology make connections between the microbes and disease. Thereafter, the theory of spontaneous generation was severely criticized, and after much controversy, was finally abandoned. Some of these microbes, the viruses, were not visible because they were still too small to be observed with the equipment of the time. Scientists nevertheless manipulated them without knowing, for example, by creating immunizations. The emergence of the field of immunology was directly tied to the development of microbiology, since immunization techniques were practiced equally on bacteria and viruses. Concerning the limits on dates, the only thing which is certain is that all those in this book are no longer with us; this criteria possibly guided our choices. So that the text is not too boring, we willingly included aspects of these men and women s personal lives. These stories might serve as further source for reflection. Some of the discoverers are not listed here even though they may have deserved their own entry. For others that are listed, some aspect of their work may not have been described. We welcome your comments, additions, and suggestions because even if this book is historical, it should continue to live and evolve. We are keeping records for future editions. We thank the French Society for Microbiology and the photo library at the Pasteur Institute for their help and illustration of this book. Teachers will find here supplemental material for their courses to introduce their students to the history of bacteriology and epistemology, sciences becoming more and more important in our time. We dedicate this book to our two friends, Willy Hansen and Claude Bollet, with whom we wrote many scientific and historical books. They were great friends and their absence is especially saddening. We think of them and their families and we are glad to have known them.