College of LAS « Illinois

Microbiology

From Outcast to Scientific Royalty

Carl Woese

Nearly 30 years ago, Carl Woese was labeled a radical in biology for his controversial discovery of a third major division of life. His ideas made him a scientific outcast for close to 10 years. But within 20 years, the accolades started pouring in—and they still continue today.

This year, Woese was elected as a member of the Royal Society, the world's oldest continuously active scientific academy—the same academy that includes the likes of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

Woese, a microbiology professor in the College of LAS since 1964, was recognized for his 1976 discovery of the archaea, the third division of life. Prior to Woese, scientists grouped life into just two categories. His discovery transformed microbiology.

As one colleague put it, "It was like he had seen the face of God in a microscope."

Read more about Carl Woese.

Fall/Winter 2006–07