For the better part of this century, microbiologists have largely ignored evolutionary relationships among bacteria. But a revolution has occurred in microbiology with the advent of nucleic sequencing: Today, new phylogenetic relationships can be determined in far more detail and depth than was ever thought possible.

Carl R. Woese, 62, of the department of microbiology at the University of Illinois in Urbana, is widely considered the leader of this revolution. His 1987 review, "Bacterial evolution," published in Microbiological Reviews (51:221-71, 1987), comprehensively summarizes work done over the previous 10 years on the new phylogenetic categorization in microbiology. With more than 300 citations already (as tabulated from the Institute for Scientific Information's Science Citation Index), this review stands as the most cited microbiology paper of those published in the last three years (see accompanying chart).

Woese's paper discusses past failed attempts at developing a bacterial phylogeny. Stymied by technical...

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