Darwin, Microbes and Evolution by Natural Selection

  • E. Richard MoxonEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 697)


Born 200 years ago, Darwin’s revolutionary ideas were derived largely from his observations on life forms that evolved relatively recently, including various flowering plants, worms, birds and domesticated animals. Yet, life appeared on planet earth close to 4 billion years ago in the form of unicellular organisms collectively called bacteria. It was only shortly after “On the Origin of Species” was published (1859) that the “germ theory” of infectious diseases was formulated. Microbes (viruses, bacteria, fungi and microparasites) received scant mention in Darwin’s writings, although pioneers of the Golden Age of Bacteriology, such as Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), were contemporaries. Today, microbes offer extraordinary testimony and powerful model systems of direct relevance to the essentials of Darwinian selection, such as understanding microbial–host interactions, the evolution of pathogens and the emergence of drug- or vaccine-related resistance.


Natural Selection Multicellular Organism Heritable Variation Darwinian Selection Scarlet Fever 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Paediatrics, Medical Sciences DivisionJohn Radcliffe HospitalOxfordUK

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