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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 28, 2009

THE CLASSIFICATION OF BACTERIA

JAMA. 2009;301(4):443. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.975

It is one of the most remarkable lapses in modern biologic science that the classification of the bacteria has been left so long in uncertainty and confusion. The circumstance is hardly creditable to workers in this field. There are many groups of living organisms in which nomenclature and classificatory arrangement, whatever may be their biologic importance, have little or no influence on the course of investigation or on matters of direct practical concern. But just the reverse is true of bacterial classification. The difficulties that surround the sure identification of a newly found micro-organism are familiar to everyone who has had occasion to consult the meager descriptions and unhelpful systematic arrangements now available for the student. Chester's well-known compilation, although based on a reasonable principle, has not proved so useful as was hoped, because of its numerous technical inaccuracies. The practical importance of determining group limitations and variations has presented itself to many active workers in bacteriology. In more than one infectious disease questions as to origin, mode of treatment and methods of prevention have hinged on the identity and relationships of particular “cultures” or “strains.”

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