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Home > Get Tech > Get Microscopic! February, 2007

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February, 2007

| Epidemics in History & Today | More About Epidemics | More About Germs |
| Scientists Versus Germs
| Germ Warfare | Germs In Fiction | The Microscope |
| Web Resources
| A Gallery Of Germs |


…Care should be taken where there are swamps in the neighbourhood, because certain tiny creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes breed there. These float through the air and enter the body by the mouth and nose and cause serious disease (Marcus Varro, circa 46 BCE).

From Medical Marvels: The 100 Greatest Advances in Medicine
by Eugene and Alex Straus

Medieval Plague Doctor image

More About Epidemics

/ 614.4
Epidemics: Opposing Viewpoints
Outbreak: Disease Detectives at Work
by Mark Friedlander
Epidemic (Eyewitness books) book image
(Eyewitness Books)

Microbe and germ are words that generally describe microscopic invaders that cause contagious, or infectious, diseases.  There are three major types of microbes: bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

From Outbreak: Disease Detectives at Work
by Mark Friedlander

More About Germs

Bill Nye the Science Guy's Great Big Book of Tiny Germs book image
Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs
by Bill Nye
Invisible Allies book image

Invisible Allies: Microbes that Shape Our Lives
by Jeanette Farrell

Food Borne Illnesses book image
615.954 Bjorklund
Food-Borne Illnesses
by Ruth Bjorklund
Invisible Enemies book image
616.909 Farrell

Invisible Enemies: Stories of Infectious Disease
by Jeanette Farrell

Germ Warfare

Germ Warfare book image
Germ Warfare
by Amy Romano
Biological Weapons book image
Biological Weapons: Contemporary Issues

The hospital as an institution providing specialized medical care developed in the early medieval period. Constantinople, in the Byzantine Empire, boasted one of the earliest known hospitals. The Muslim world also had some renowned examples, the best known of which were in Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. Baghdad’s first hospital dated to the ninth century. At the combination hospital and medical school in Damascus, rooms were so elegant and the library so extensive that healthy people feigned illness to enjoy the accommodations.

From The Black Death by Tracee De Hahn


Epidemics in History & Today

Black Death book cover
De Hahn
The Black Death
by Tracee De Hahn
Life During the Black Death
by John Dunn
An American Plague book cover
614.541 Murphy
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
by Jim Murphy

To many, it was the Speckled Monster. Few forces in history were more feared, or proved more powerful, than the infinitesimally small and highly contagious variola virus – the agent of smallpox. This dreaded disease finally met its match in the late eighteenth century, when a little known country doctor, [Edward Jenner], wondered why England’s lovely milkmaids rarely suffered the scars of the pox. His curiosity led to something seemingly miraculous – the world’s first vaccine – turning the tide in humanity’s age-old battle against smallpox epidemics.

From Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster
by Albert Marrin

614.5112 Typhoid
Typhoid Mary, the Most Dangerous Woman in America
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 book image
614.518 Aronson
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
by Virginia Aronson
614.518 Influenza
Influenza 1918
(American Experience)
Epidemic! The 1918 Influenza Pandemic
by Stephanie Peters
The Great Serum Race book image


The Great Serum Race
by Debbie S. Miller

Epidemic! The Battle Against Polio
by Stephanie Peters
616.926 Hayhurst
Epidemic! E. coli
by Chris Hayhurst

An estimated 2 billion people were stricken with the Spanish influenza during the 10 ghastly months of the pandemic. Between 20 and 40 million died in this short span, making the 1918 flu the most extensive and fastest-spreading killer disease in history. In the decades that have followed, scientists have uncovered the cause of the deadly flu, yet influenza continues to afflict the world’s population. In fact, influenza may be the most dangerous infectious disease known to humankind.

From The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
by Virginia Aronson

Scientists vs. Germs

Louis Pasteur: Revolutionary Scientist book cover
Louis Pasteur: Revolutionary Scientist
by Allison Lassieur
Medical Marvels - the 100 Greatest Advances in Medicine book image
Medical Marvels: The 100 Greatest Advances in Medicine
by Eugene and Alex Straus
Disease Detectives
by Lisa Yount
Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster book cover image
Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster
by Albert Marrin
Immune System
by Pam Walker
615.329 Antibiotics
(Eyes of Nye)
Vaccines by Collier book image
by James Lincoln Collier
616.079 Donnellan
The Miracle of Immunity
by William J. Donnellan
Drugs and Disease
(Health for Children)

Germs in Fiction

J/ Fic

Fever, 1793
by Laurie Halse Anderson

In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, is forced to cope with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic.

/ PB

The Plague
by Albert Camus

In the small coastal city of Iran, Algeria, rats begin rising from the filth only to die as bloody heaps in the streets. Shortly after, many residents experience intense fevers and then perish--victims of the unseen menace of the bubonic plague.

Fever 1793 book image
The Plague by Camus book image
J/ Fic

In the Shadow of the Pali: A Story of the Hawaiian Leper Colony
by Lisa Cindrich

In the late nineteenth century, twelve-year-old Liliha is sent to the Kalaupapa Leprosy Colony at Molokai, Hawaii, where she struggles to endure savage living conditions and people, as well as her own disease.

/ Fic

Code Orange
by Caroline B. Cooney

While conducting research for a school paper on smallpox, Mitty finds an envelope containing 100-year-old smallpox scabs and fears that he has infected himself and all of New York City.

In the Shadow of Pali book cover image
Code Orange book image
J/ Fic

Matilda Bone
by Karen Cushman

Fourteen-year-old Matilda, an apprentice bonesetter and practitioner of medicine in a village in medieval England, tries to reconcile the various aspects of her life, both spiritual and practical.

J Fic

The One Left Behind
by Willo Davis Roberts

Mandy’s life changes forever when her ten-year-old twin sister eats a hamburger tainted with E. coli and dies.

Matilda Bone book image
The One Left Behind
J/ Fic

A Parcel of Patterns
by Jill Paton Walsh

Mall Percival tells how the plague came to her Derbyshire village of Eyam in the year 1665, how the villagers determined to isolate themselves, and how three-fourths of them died before the end of the following year.

J/ Fic

The Sunbird
by Elizabeth Wein

When, in the 6th century, plague spreads from Britain to Aksum, young Telemakos travels to the kingdom's salt mines to discover the identity of the traitor who is spreading plague with the salt from port to port.

A Parcel of Patterns book image
The Sunbird book image

The Plague
by Phillip Wooderson

My Side of the Story series, featuring Rachel’s Story and Robert’s Story.

The Plague by Wooderson book image

The Microscope

Until the time of reasonably good microscopes, little could be learned about germs…. Microscopes were invented about A.D. 1600. They were beautiful, and had two lenses, but could magnify an image only by twenty to thirty times its actual size. They were lit by candles or oil lamps.

From The Miracle of Immunity by William J. Donnellan

The Microscope book image
J 502.82 Petersen The Microscope
by Christine Petersen
The Usbornie Internet-Linked Complete Book of the Microscope book image
J 502.82 Rogers The Usborne Internet-Linked Complete Book of the Microscope
by Kirsteen Rogers
Up Close book image
J 570.282 Gikow Up Close
by Louise Gikow
The Good, The Bad, The Slimy: The Secret Life of Microbes book cover image
J 579
The Good, The Bad, The Slimy: The Secret Life of Microbes
by Sara L. Latta
  J 610.2809 Mulcahy Medical Technology: Inventing the Instruments
by Robert Mulcahy

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

Image of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek


In his own modest way he realized how rare his gifts were and also that other people's motives were not always those of a true student of nature. In a 1715 letter he noted:

"Some go to make money out of science, or to get a reputation in the learned world. But in lens-grinding and discovering things hidden from our sight, these count for nought. And I am satisfied too that not one man in a thousand is capable of such study, because it needs much time ... and you must always keep thinking about these things if you are to get any results. And over and above all, most men are not curious to know: nay, some even make no bones about saying, What does it matter whether we know this or not?"

Quoted from article in Gale's Encyclopedia of World Biography.

See Biography Resource Center for more on Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.

On the Web, see images of what van Leeuwenhoek would have seen and get plans to make your own microscope on the University of California Museum of Paleontology's Antoni van Leeuwenhoek web page.

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek: First to See Microscopic Life book image
J 578.092
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek: First to See Microscopic Life
by Lisa Yount

Web Resources

BAM! Body and Mind
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Infection, Detection, Protection (American Museum of Natural History)
PBS / NOVA Science NOW - Germ Communication with Bonnie Bassler
Most bacteria aren't bad. We breathe and eat and ingest gobs of bacteria every single moment of our lives. Our food is covered in bacteria. And you're breathing in bacteria all the time, and you mostly don't get sick. That's because your immune system evolved specifically to see bacteria and to do surveillance: to tell the bad guys from the good guys, and to get rid of the bad ones.

~ Bonnie Bassler, quoted during interview with PBS' NOVA

PBS / NOVA - The Most Dangerous Woman in America: Typhoid Mary

Dinner with Typhoid Mary: Poor Mary Mallon. Of all the bizarre and melancholy fates that could befall an otherwise ordinary person, hers has to be among the most sad and peculiar.

~ Quoted from The Story of Mary Mallon - Typhoid Mary

The Tech Museum's "Understanding Genetics - Zooming Into DNA"
Wikipedia – Germ Theory of Disease

The germ theory of disease, also called the pathogenic theory of medicine, is a theory that proposes that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases. Although highly controversial when first proposed, it is now a cornerstone of modern medicine and clinical microbiology, leading to such important innovations as antibiotics and hygienic practices.

~ Quoted from Wikipedia article on "Germ Theory"

Santa Clara County Library’s List of Health and Medicine Web Sites:

A Gallery of Germs

Bubonic Plague bacteria image
Ebola Virus image
E. coli bacteria image
H5N1 flu virus image
1918 H1N1 flu virus image
Smallpox virus image
Typhoid bacteria image
Microscopic images and facts courtesy of the CDC's Public Health Image Library