Celebrating 30 years: The man who bottled evolution

  • Feb 21, 2018
  • BEACON, evolution, research
  • Homepage Hero, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Research, BEACON Center, Integrative Biology, Microbiology

Image of Richard Lenski

In 1988, Richard Lenski started an experiment with 12 populations of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria - all starting with the same ancestral strain and all living in identical environments - to see just how similarly or differently they would evolve. Graphic courtesy MSU.

Thirty years ago, Michigan State University researcher Richard Lenski added his now-famous bacteria to 12 inaugural flasks, a process he and his team of lab technicians and students have been repeating daily ever since.

That was the humble beginning of Lenski’s Long-Term Evolution Experiment—aka LTEE—which today ranks as one of the world’s longest-running science experiments.

Through the years—and more than 68,000 generations of bacteria later—the experiment also has earned the MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics multiple accolades, including the title “The Man Who Bottled Evolution” by the likes of Science magazine.

But who, outside of the science community, should care about this milestone? Why celebrate and why bacteria? 

Learn more about Lenski's remarkable LTEE initiative and what the future holds for "the experiment that keeps on giving" at http://msutoday.msu.edu/feature/2018/the-man-who-bottled-evolution/?utm_source=msuedu-feature-banner&utm_medium=msuhome.


Banner image courtesy MSU.