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March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674035829
ISBN-10: 0674035828
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Though most people are only familiar with microbes that cause disease (germs, etc.), those "felonious" microbes actually constitute a tiny percent of all microbes, and just a single chapter in this fascinating survey of single-celled organisms and their role in shaping life on Earth, from University of California Professor Emeritus of Microbiology Ingraham. Among other processes, Ingraham explains how vaccines have been developed, frequently with the aid of other microbes; the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles which make life possible; and how microbes give us cheese, wine, and other foodstuffs (though some, like xanthan gum, readers not to know about). Ingraham also discusses recently-discovered microbes inhabiting extreme environments (hot, cold, salty, etc.) that promise to tell us much about the evolution of life on Earth and what life on other planets might look like. Ingraham's entertaining, breezy style makes even difficult topics accessible, and every chapter contains intriguing anecdotes about microbes in history (did the CIA try to poison Castro's cigars with botulinum toxin?). Highly readable, engrossing, and endlessly informative, this is a standout example of science writing for general audiences.

From Booklist

Ingraham is an expert on cellular organisms; his name even graces one, a cold-dwelling bacterium called Psychromonas ingrahamii. In this engaging treatment, the microbiologist shows readers the invisible world through observations about its macroscopic manifestations in a range of environments, from the kitchen to the abyss of the sea. Prefacing the tour with the several classifications of microbes and their basic metabolism, Ingraham writes first about where we can see (or, more accurately, smell) microbes at work: in food and in digestion. Having interested gastronomes, Ingraham adds nature lovers to his audience by describing varieties of beautiful scenery created by microbes, such as Spanish moss or colorful hot springs. Hardheaded geophysicists might also queue for this book: atmospheric oxygen, nitrogen in soil, and certain iron deposits among other useful resources exist because of microbial activity. But lest we grow unwarrantably fond of our single-celled friends, Ingraham describes some of their malicious cousins who blight crops, kill trees, and sicken humans. Ingraham’s clarity, plus touches of humor, augments the appeal of this fine contribution to popularizing science. --Gilbert Taylor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674035828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674035829
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,248,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nancy J. O'connor on April 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book because I knew nothing about the subject. It is a fascinating read. The author's style and presentation makes the information easily available to the novice. It was astounding to learn about the enormous work done by microbes and the variety of their behavior. As a former teacher I think this would be an excellent book to use as an introduction to microbiology. I could envision an interesting summer project for ones children, investigating the information in this book. From earaches and dental caries to Vino Verde and the thermal pools of Yellowstone are some of the parts of this exciting journey.
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Format: Hardcover
Microbes are certainly under-appreciated organisms which the average person only notices when some pathogenic form causes illness. That we could not live without them is a little-known fact. Because of the current crises in which we humans find ourselves- pollution, global climate change and competition for some scarce resources, we really need to appreciate the role that microbes play in the established ecosystems of the planet and in direct association with our own body. Reading John L. Ingraham's new book "March of the Microbes" would certainly be a good start.

While UC - Davis Professor Emeritus Ingraham does touch on classification, his main theme is the biology and ecology of microorganisms. He has produced a truly astounding collection of facts and stories about how the microbial world informs our own and how it is certainly the tiny things that can aid or get one in trouble. The fascinating stories about wine-making, cheese production, plant diseases, digestive floras, microbial mats, nutrient cycling, pathogenic microbes, and numerous other bizarre and often vital microbe activities, are truly remarkable. It is in fact difficult to describe this book without superlatives, it is so informative, interesting and well-written.

This is another book that all people who want to try and understand the world around them should read. Fortunately this is a book that is both easy to read and hard to put down. I recommend it without reservation.
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Format: Hardcover
i agree with the other two reviews. i happen to run across this book while looking for something else in the new release science area. the author makes the topic approachable, interesting and relatively easy to understand. he writes with a smooth style and throws in some side thoughts for fun to get you to understand the reality of microbial life more clearly. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a microbiology major and when I was a sophomore, I was able to take a brand new Intro to Microbes class. At that point, I was already knees deep into microbio and I knew a lot -- but not a lot of the chemistry, molecular biology, etc. The class was boring because it told me things I already knew from PBS, academic papers were too hard because I didn't understand the basics. This book was juuust right.

I don't leave reviews for books often (this is my first) but this one really stayed with me. It had a lot of stories that told me things I never knew, -- astonishing facts that further fueled my love for microbiology.

It's a great read for people getting into microbiology or want to learn about something that is in every day life.

Also, the picture on the cover are diatoms. That chapter blew my mind and I never thought about the ocean the same way again. This books can be difficult to read at times, but it's so interesting that it really is worth your time. I'm graduating soon but I can't bear to sell this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like John's book because it isn't written like a text book, but it has the information of a college text and with a reasonable price. John explains what microbes are and how significant they are to life. In fact, microbes are the building blocks of life. He describes the fascinating process of changing an environment when they aquire energy. Microbes are invisible creatures to the naked eye, but John gives us examples of how we can sense them. The book also includes a glossary for the biology terminology.
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Format: Hardcover
What an amazing book! It's full of so much fascinating and surprising information about so many diverse topics the subtitle could have been "How the World Really Works." After reading you'll not only know a lot more about microorganisms, but everything will look a little different and a lot more interesting.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you want to know about the world of microbes I cannot think of a better place to roam than this book. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a great deal. Science moves so quickly now that one must read constantly to keep up with any speciality. This book is written in an easy to understand but still lightly technical manner. I highly recommend it.
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