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Monday, September 16, 2013

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THE PROKARYOTES: A HANDBOOK ON THE BIOLOGY OF BACTERIA, VOLUME 1 TO 7

Athul Menon  /  at  1:13 PM  /  No comments

PREFACE
Each of the first two editions of The Prokaryotes took a bold step. The first edition, published in 1981, set out to be an encyclopedic, synoptic account of the world of the prokaryotes—a collection of monographic descriptions of the genera of bacteria.The Archaea had not yet been formalized as a group. For the second edition in 1992, the editors made the decision to organize the chapters on the basis of the molecular phylogeny championed by Carl Woese, which increasingly provided a rational, evolutionary basis for the taxonomy of the prokaryotes. In addition, the archaea had by then been recognized as a phylogenetically separate and distinguishable group of the prokaryotes. The two volumes of the first edition had by then expanded to four.The third edition was arguably the boldest step of all.We decided that the material would only be presented electronically. The advantages were obvious and persuasive. There

would be essentially unlimited space. There would be no restrictions on the use of color illustrations. Film and animated descriptions could be made available. The text would be hyperlinked to external sources. Publication of chapters would be seriati—the edition would no longer have to delay publication until the last tardy author had submitted his or her chapter. Updates and modifications could be made continuously. And, most attractively, a library could place its subscribed copy on its server and make it available easily and cheaply to all in its community.
One hundred and seventy chapters have thus far been presented in 16 releases over a six-year period. The virtues and advantages of the online edition have been borne out. But we failed to predict the affection that many have for holding a bound, print version of a book in their hands. Thus, this print version of the third edition shall accompany the online version.

We are now four years into the 21st century. Indulge us then while we comment on the challenges, problems and opportunities for microbiology that confront us.

Moselio Schaechter has referred to the present era of microbiology as its third golden age—the era of “integrative microbiology.” Essentially all microbiologists now speak a common language. So that the boundaries that previously separated subdisciplines from each other have faded: physiology has become indistinguishable from pathogenesis; ecologists and molecular geneticists speak to each other; biochemistry is spoken by all; and—mirabile dictu!— olecular biologists are collaborating with taxonomists. But before these molecular dissections of complex processes can be effective there must be a clear view of the organism being studied. And it is our goal that these chapters in The Prokaryotes provide that opportunity. There is also yet a larger issue. Microbiology is now confronted with the need to understand increasingly complex processes. And the modus operandi that has served us so successfully for
150 years—that of the pure culture studied under standard laboratory conditions—is inadequate. We are now challenged to solve problems of multimembered populations interacting with each other and with their environment under constantly variable conditions. Carl Woese has pointed out a useful and important distinction between empirical, methodological reductionism and fundamentalist reductionism. The former has served us well; the latter stands in the way of our further understanding of complex, interacting systems. But no matter what kind of synoptic systems analysis emerges as our way of understanding host–parasite relations, ecology, or multicellular behavior, the understanding of the organism as such is sine qua non. And in that context, we are pleased to present to you the third edition of The Prokaryotes.

Martin Dworkin
Editor-in-Chief

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VOLUME 1 (Symbiotic Associations, Biotechnology, Applied Microbiology)

VOLUME 2 (Ecophysiology and Biochemistry)

VOLUME 3 (Archaea. Bacteria: Firmicutes, Actinomycetes)

VOLUME 4 (Bacteria: Firmicutes, Cyanobacteria)

VOLUME 5 (Proteobacteria: Alpha and Beta Subclasses)

VOLUME 6 (Proteobacteria: Gamma Subclass)

VOLUME 7 (Proteobacteria: Delta and Epsilon Subclasses, Deeply Rooting Bacteria)





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