transient creatures/transient life

“as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.” War of the Worlds, H.G Wells

“These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things–taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many–those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance–our living frames are altogether immune. But there are no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow” War of the Worlds, H.G Wells


These are some of the opening and closing lines of War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, a narrative bookended by powerful descriptions of microbiological life. I read this book in my early teens and became obsessed with this invisible, yet vast and powerful domain of life. Little did I know then, that I would spend a career scrutinizing and studying these life forms and that, in some sense, I would become that “man with a microscope”, and that whilst using far more powerful methods to study microbes, I’d never tire of gazing at them down such a simple microscope.

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