The Microcosm

Our world is full of microorganisms, life forms too small to be seen except with special equipment. These microbes, as they are called, can cause sickness, disease, and death. Some microbes, however, are beneficial and even necessary for our survival.

As you explore the world of microbes, you'll learn more about how they impact our everyday lives.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

CDC: Center for Disease Control: Bioterrorism
Visit the Center for Disease Control and learn about the possible kinds of bio-threats that deal with microbial agents such as anthrax.
The Great Pandemic
Virtually travel back in time to 1918 and 1919. During that time, the Spanish flu killed over 25 million people worldwide. This deadly virus spread quickly and caused the death of about 5% of the world’s population.
Lichen are a combination of fungus and alga or bacterium. They consist of tiny algal cells mixed with threadlike fungi. Lichen grow very slowly, and some lichen in the arctic are more than 4000 years old. In artic regions, lichen are an important food source for reindeer or caribou and often provide up to 70% of their diet.
Microbe World
Microbe World is your gateway to the world of microbes. Explore bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi and other microbes. The site also includes microbial facts and trivia.
Microbe Zoo
A microbe is any living organism that spends its life at a size too tiny to be seen with the naked eye. At this site, you'll discover the world of hidden microbes.

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People To See

Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)
Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria, free-living and parasitic microscopic protists, sperm cells, blood cells, microscopic nematodes and rotifers, and much more.
Compost Microorganisms
In the process of composting, microorganisms break down organic matter and produce carbon dioxide, water, heat, and humus, the relatively stable organic end product.
Jenner and Smallpox
Visit with Edward Jenner, an English doctor in the late 1700s.  He discovered that people infected with a mild disease called cowpox often did not become infected with deadly smallpox.  His early discoveries and experiments led to the first vaccinations against diseases such as smallpox.
Joseph Lister
Get to know Joseph Lister, a 19th century British surgeon.  His studies were able to show a connection between microbes and disease, and he pioneered the use of antiseptics in surgery.
Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur's discoveries paved the way for modern medicine. He tackled the problem of disease and demonstrated that microbes are infectious agents.
Sir Alexander Fleming
Learn about the man who discovered that mold can inhibit the growth of bacteria. Because it led to the development of penicillin, an enormously potent infection-fighting agent, this discovery changed the course of history. 

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Things To Do

Dennis Kunkel Microbiology
This Image Gallery contains hundreds of scientific, biological and medical images photographed with electron microscopes and light microscopes.
E.Coli - KidsHealth
E. coli is a common type of bacteria that can make you pretty sick. Read more in this article for kids.
Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook (pdf)
Explore the different microorganisms that make us sick from salmonella to shigella to clostridium perfringens.
How Light Microscopes Work
The human eye misses a lot -- enter the incredible world of the microscopic! Explore how a light microscope works.
Mayo Clinic: Botulism
Find out about the bacteria called Clostridium botulinum and how it can cause death within 24 hours if ingested.
Micro-Angela: Electron Microscope Image Gallery
Colorized images from scanning electron microscope (SEM) and transmission electron microscopes (TEMs) in the Biological Electron Microscope Facility.
The Microbe World
Microbes are everywhere - a largely unseen world of living things that support life processes. "The Microbe World" provides a comprehensive directory of micro-organisms and their activities.
Microbes in the News
Read articles about heroic, ancient, dangerous, and strange microbes.
Mission Environment: Decomposers
Learn about the role of decomposer that microorganisms play in food webs and ecosystems. Then learn a song about decomposers.
Molecular Expressions
This website claims that it goes where no microscope has gone before. Click on the Gallery links to see huge collections of images taken with an optical microscope.
Murray the Thespian Microbe
Meet Murray the microbe, a four-inch-tall bacterium who sports Reeboks and lives in a parallel universe. Along the way you learn all about bacteria, how they live, what they eat, what they look like and how they reproduce.
Step into the Nanoworld and view all kinds of organisms magnified hundreds of times. In the Image Gallery, you can see a blood cell or a pig nerve magnified as much as 4,000 times.
Web MD Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria)
Find out if our fears about new strains of flesh-eating bacteria are founded.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Balkwill, Dr. Fran and Mic Rolph. Cells Are Us. First Avenue Editions, 1994.
  • Balkwill, Dr. Fran and Mic Rolph. Cell Wars. First Avenue Editions, 1994.
  • Birch, Beverley and Christian Birmingham. Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes. Barrons Juveniles, 1996.
  • Dixon, Bernard. Power Unseen: How Microbes Rule the World. Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Karlen, Arno. Man and Microbes: Disease and Plagues in History and Modern Time. Touchstone Books, 1996.
  • Krulik, Nancy E. and Bruce Degen. The Magic School Bus in a Pickle : A Book About Microbes. Scholastic, 1998.
  • Postgate, J.R. Microbes and Man. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Sankaran, Neeraja. Microbes and People: An A-Z of Microorganisms in Our Lives. Oryx Press, 2001.
  • Silverstein, Alvin and Virginia B. Silverstein. A World in a Drop of Water: Exploring With a Microscope. Dover, 1998.