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Exhibition: Introduction

  • Graphic illustrations of various micobes numerically numbered.

    Half-Hours with the Microscope,  Edwin Lankester, MD, illustrated by Tuffen West, 1860

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

  • Graphic illustrations of various micobes numerically numbered.

    Half-Hours with the Microscope,  Edwin Lankester, MD, illustrated by Tuffen West, 1860

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

  • Graphic illustrations of various micobes numerically numbered.

    Half-Hours with the Microscope,  Edwin Lankester, MD, illustrated by Tuffen West, 1860

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine

  • Graphic illustrations of various micobes numerically numbered.

    Half-Hours with the Microscope,  Edwin Lankester, MD, illustrated by Tuffen West, 1860

    Courtesy National Library of Medicine


MICROBES—tiny organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye—have altered human history. Life forms such as bacteria, yeasts, and molds can cause sickness or restore health, and help produce foods and beverages.

Scientists, in partnership with industry, have developed techniques to harness the powers of these microbes. In recent years, headline-grabbing technologies have used genetically modified bacteria to manufacture new medicines.

A glimpse into the past reveals a history of human enterprise that has adapted these tiny organisms for health and profit. This exhibition explores some of the processes, problems, and potential inherent in technologies that use life.

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