Quantitative Microbiology 1 (1999): 5
# 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Manufactured in The Netherlands
``When you measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers, you know
something about it, but when you cannot express it in numbers your knowledge about it is
of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.''
William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)
Microorganisms are of importance in a vast diversity of situations, from infectious disease
to human and animal ecology to biodegradation (among other examples). A thorough
understanding of their importance requires a thorough quantitative characterization of the
processes and phenomena in which microorganisms are engaged. With the increasing
development of microbial sciences using tools and techniques of modern molecular
biology, it has seemed to many that a divergence away from quantitative thinking has
This is surprising, since early bacteriologists were at the forefront of mathematical and
statistical thinking. For example, ``Student'' (W.F. Gossett) developed fundamental
statistical concepts arising from quality control of fermentation processes in brewing.
Perhaps the ®rst major application of likelihood estimation techniques arose with the use
of most probable number techniques for assessment of water quality.
With modern concerns over the risk posed by microorganisms (as pathogens) to humans
and non-human populations, the role of microorganisms in degrading toxic materials, and
the use of microorganisms as reagents in industrial processes, it is time for a reinvigoration
of quantitative thinking into the ®eld. It is to this end that Quantitative Microbiology has
been founded. It is our hope that this venue may become a common ground for life
scientists, mathematicians and statisticians to set forth new paradigms whereby the
microbial world and be more fully ``express[ed] in numbers''.
I welcome your comments and suggestions as we progress.
Charles N. Haas
Editor-in-Chief, Quantitative Microbiology