Sergei Winogradsky founded microbial ecology and he was a founding father of microbiology. In an unusually long scientific career, he:
- Discovered chemosynthesis– an entirely new mode of life, in which the energy to build organic molecules comes from chemical reactions rather than from sunlight in the more familiar photosynthesis.
We now know there are a great many organisms on our planet which survive using chemosynthesis. A number of these are extremophiles, carving out a living in extreme conditions, for example very high temperatures or high acidity, where other organisms cannot survive.
Planetary scientists speculate that extremophile organisms using chemosynthesis might exist on Jupiter’s moons Europa and Callisto and possibly below the surface of Mars.
- Invented the Winogradsky column.
During his time in Strasbourg, Winogradsky invented the Winogradsky Column, which is still used today to learn which communities of bacteria are present in a sample. It consists of a glass cylinder half-filled with mud from a river or lake, topped up with water. A number of ingredients, such as sodium sulfate, calcium carbonate, and cellulose (newspaper) are added to provide sources of nutrition for bacteria. Within the column, scientists can control the amount of nutrients and light available to bacteria.
- Discovered and isolated nitrogen fixing bacteria in soil that make nitrates available to green plants.
- Founded microbial ecology, where the interactions of microbes in cycles with their natural environments are studied holistically.