Volume 27, Number 1—January 2021
Etymologia: Petri Dish
Petri Dish [pe′tre ′dish]
The Petri dish is named after the German inventor and bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri (1852–1921). In 1887, as an assistant to fellow German physician and pioneering microbiologist Robert Koch (1843–1910), Petri published a paper titled “A minor modification of the plating technique of Koch.” This seemingly modest improvement (a slightly larger glass lid), Petri explained, reduced contamination from airborne germs in comparison with Koch’s bell jar.
Similar alterations had been suggested earlier by Slavonian researcher Emanuel Klein (1844–1925), who was working in England and described a nearly identical dish in his 1885 book Micro-organisms. An 1886 research paper published by Percy Frankland (1858–1946) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society portrayed a comparable shallow, circular, and covered dish. Available historical complications accord credit of discovery of the Petri dish to other bacteriologists (Figure).
- Central Sheet for Bacteriology and Parasite Science [in German]. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Volume 1, 1887 [cited 2020 Aug 25]. https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/210666#page/313/mode/1up
- Petri JR. A minor modification of the plating technique of Koch [in German]. Cent für Bacteriol und Parasitenkd. 1887;1:279–80.
- Shama G. The “Petri” dish: a case of simultaneous invention in bacteriology. Endeavour. 2019;43:11–6.
- The big story: the Petri dish. The Biomedical Scientist. Institute of Biomedical Science [cited 2020 Aug 25]. https://thebiomedicalscientist.net/science/big-story-petri-dish
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Original Publication Date: December 18, 2020