The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
Exhibit Map

Selman Waksman, Sergei Winogradsky: His Life and Work, The Life of a Great Bacteriologist, 1953

In 1949, at the age of 93, Sergei Winogradsky (1856-1953) made one final effort to establish his legacy in the history of science. He concluded his scientific career by synthesizing his life’s work in a 900-page compendium entitled (in French) Soil Microbiology: Problems and Methods, Fifty Years of Investigations. He entitled his book Soil Microbiology, but, revealingly, he structured it as a history of his contributions to ecology. Organizing it thematically, according to research subject, he consistently directed his readers to the ecological significance of his work. As a final statement of this, he ended his tome with an essay on “The Principles of Ecological Microbiology, A Synthesis.” Writing in 1945, Winogradsky traced “the remote origin of this new branch of the grand microbiological science” to Louis Pasteur’s concept of “the role of the ‘infiniment petits’ in nature.” Winogradsky understood what historians of science have only begun to understand—that ecology owes a substantial debt to microbiology.


Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, 1793
Charles Darwin, On the Formation of Vegetable Matter by Worms, 1881
Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos, 1858
Dumas and Boussingault, Balance of Organic Matter, 1844
Ferdinand Cohn, Bacteria, The Smallest Living Beings, 1872
Louis Pasteur, Etudes sur la Biere, 1862
Selman Waksman, Sergei Winogradsky, 1953
Selman Waksman, Humus, 1939
Vladimir Vernadsky, Principles of Biogeochemistry, 1960
James Lovelock, An Homage to Gaia, 1985
Lloyd Ackert
Whitney Humanities Center
Yale University
53 Wall Street
P.O. Box 208298
New Haven, CT 06520-8298
Office: (203).432.3112

The Sterling Memorial Exhibit is located in the Overflow Case to the left of the circulation desk. The Sterling Memorial Library is located at

120 High Street
Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520
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