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Microbiology has come a long way since the days of Anton van Leeuwenhoek and his "very little living animalcules, very prettily a-moving." The animalcules were, of course, bacteria, and Leeuwenhoek's 17th century observations were among the first written records of microbial life. Now, as exemplified by two recent Faculty of 1000 papers, microbiologists are answering questions that Leeuwenhoek and his peers probably could not imagine. In one paper, marine microbiologists explain how they cultivated previously unculturable bacteria.1 In the other, researchers describe a new computational method for comparing genomic sequences from distantly related microbial species.2

In 1990, Oregon State University's Stephen Giovannoni discovered a new bacterium in the Sargasso Sea--a two-million-square-mile ellipse of clear, warm water in the North Atlantic. He and his collaborators named the organism SAR11....

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