Mysteries of the Microscopic World

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course from an Excellent Lecturer Originally, I was expecting a course that focused mainly on the detailed structure and lives of microbes. However, this course also looked into how microbes evolved and adapted to various world environments. Topics included man’s development from tree creatures to mankind as hunter-gatherers to current civilizations. From here, it became even more interesting with lectures on germ evolution, epidemics, plagues, and germ warfare. Some of the more interesting lectures came at the end with discussions of diseases brought from the old to the new world, the origin of life on earth, and the survival of microbial life in outer space. One small negative were the six lectures on the immune system. While these contained a lot of information, they were challenging. The lectures on AIDS were difficult but very informative. One lecture in particular focused on the impact of AIDS, rather than the virus itself and was very effective. The lecturer, Dr. Bruce Fleury, is very good. He lectures in a relaxed manner that holds your attention. Kudos - he has a gift and presents at a very high level. Finally, the course is very well organized with many excellent illustrations and exhibits. I recommend it.
Date published: 2019-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent professor - fascinating material Bought four courses a week ago and tried this one first...I'm almost done already. I've taken a dozen great courses and have always enjoyed the high quality of the teachers, but professor Fleury is truly exceptional. Makes the material come to life.
Date published: 2019-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Lectures! The course is well organized and very interesting and informative.
Date published: 2019-06-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mysteries of the Microscopic World In his Glossary, Dr. Fleury indicates that a neutrophil is a type of lymphocyte. I learned a long time ago that neutrophils originate in the bone marrow and thus are a type of myelocyte. Has that concept changed since the early 60's? I did enjoy the course
Date published: 2019-05-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not that informative. I have purchased approximately twenty Great Courses, some were better than others, but overall the quality has been good to great. This is the first course I've given a ho-hum review. Some of the lecturers' phrases seem childish (e.g. "put on your thinking cap" or "cue the Jeopardy music"). There isn't much depth to the lectures. The format of lecutres follows a set pattern, this disease causes such and such symptoms, it is caused by such and such, it is is easy (or difficult) to distinguish from other diseases. There are some interesting facts, but there is a lot of fluff. I would purchase something else.
Date published: 2019-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes you want to learn more I bought this a month ago and am very glad I did, would again
Date published: 2018-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibly interesting! WOW! I was actually looking for some guidance on buying a microscope and hoping to learn how to see amoebas and paramecium. But, oh my! What an interesting and riveting course! Prof Fleury is a master. Where were instructors like this when I was in engineering school?
Date published: 2018-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An embarrassment of riches Professor Fleury is an outstanding speaker and lecturer, possessing immense knowledge of his subject and having a speaking manner that is at once both magnetic and exhaustive. I cannot recommend this course highly enough.
Date published: 2018-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses I have taken! This was a top-of-the-line course. I knew a little biology and a little about microbes. This course took me from ground-level to college grad in 24 lectures. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2018-10-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from History of Disease Plus I find myself in agreement with many other reviewers who have commented that this course is more about history than microbiology. Nonetheless valuable, except for those looking for hard science. For me, once I adjusted my outlook to what Professor Fleury was presenting, I found the course material to be interesting, valuable and at times fascinating. As any kind of biology is a science with which I am not familiar, most everything was new to me (except of course for some general knowledge about the world). Therefore I learned a lot, even though it was knowledge that I was not expecting. Dr. Fleury’s presentation style is not particularly engaging at first, but I grew to really like his sly humor and family references. And while I found a few of his jokes to be on the lame side, I expect that they would be better in a classroom setting. True enough he does use a teleprompter, but that is never a big distraction for me. At the least this device keeps him from digressing from the main topic to side issues (unless intended). I’m not qualified to comment on his degree of expertise, nor if he got an occasional fact either wrong, or did not expand in enough detail. His knowledge seemed complete and his ability to impart that knowledge to non-biologists in a clear fashion was sound, if occasionally simplistic. As advertised and as others have commented, the going gets a bit tougher in lectures 14-19, the immunity lectures. I think even those of us who have a reasonably technical, if non-biological background will have to think a bit more deeply here. For me at least, the rewards were worth the effort. I quite liked the approach of using a few diseases (for example rabies), parasitic infections (hookworm) and epidemics and pandemics (1918 flu) both from an historical perspective and as a jumping off point to bring in specific microbe issues. And with many surprises: who knew, for instance, that the “Spanish Flu” likely started in SW Kansas? The graphics are generally good, sometimes heartwarming (his cat) and occasionally cheesy, but almost always supporting a point. I’m glad this was only available in video format as I don’t think I could have made it through the immunity discussion with no pictorial aids. Good job Professor Fleury, even if it was not what I was expecting.
Date published: 2018-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very great course Professor is very knowledgeable, entertaining, and a great presenter
Date published: 2018-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mysteries of Microscopic World Have only read few chapters of book and watched 1 disk so far. Was not aware that these little bacterial were so diabolical, unbelievable. Very good presentation by professor. Have microscopic for electronics (retired after 35+ years) and started looking into bacteria in bird bath on hands etc... Thought this subject would be interesting topic for me. I don't think the majority of people look at bacteria/germs with much awareness. This class is eye opener.
Date published: 2018-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Series So much more to the world that I ever realized. This is a very informative lecture series. The professor is very knowledgeable and presents each lecture with great examples and a touch of humor. I highly recommend this series to everyone interested in knowing more about the unseen world around us and how it affects our lives. Great job--great course.
Date published: 2018-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a fascinating course about pathogenic and also benign and helpful microbes . It is taught by Professor Fleury, a master teacher. He enthusiastically talks about the enormous variety of bacteria, viruses and even worms, what they do, their ability to adapt to changing environments, their virulence , resistance to antibiotics de to mutations, etc. One learns how infections occur and by which methods and pathways. I wholeheartedly recommend this course..
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Microscopic Miasma...Oh my! In this set of lectures Professor Bruce Fleury (the Good Doctor) presents an introduction into the world of startling and horrifying organisms; a world in which we find ourselves NOT at the top of the food chain, but closer to the bottom of that chain. This world...the one in which we live, work, play and dominated by creatures/organisms that inhabit and infect every (not only nearly, but EVERY) niche or inorganic. And all this on a microscopic scale. While the course title was a bit misleading to me, I quickly caught on and by lesson/chapter #2, I was hooked, both by the Good Doctor's infectious lecturing style (despite some really bad jokes), his knowledge and organization of the topics. His lectures are a blend of research summaries, disease histories and short researcher biographies...tied together with some informative graphics. As an aside, the Good Doctor's vitae describes his as a 'Professor of the Practice', a term with which I was not familiar. I guess that makes him a type of polymath whose main job is to research the researchers, and to relate conclusions from widely varying fields of study into a coherent summary. For instance, in Chapter#4 he contrasts the differences in case studies, versus the scientific method...there's more to miasma than meets the eye, apparently. The examinations...both the cause and the results... of the great varieties of epidemics, pandemics and other infectious diseases are enough to change even the most secure person into a paranoid mess. From the Yersinia pestis bacteria of the Black Death (see Dorsey Armstrong for the descriptive details), to the nosocomial infections in the chapter on virulence, to the hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola (and other zoonois diseases), to the startling nematode population (ninety percent of the life on the ocean floor consists of nothing but different species of nematode worms...who knew?), to the biggest killer of mankind of all times (to date, anyway) the ill-names Spanish flu...fatal to as many as 100 million of the more that 500 million infected. All this is bad enough, until the Good Doctor informs us that all these bacteria and viruses are capable of mutating, and evolving at the drop of a really, really small, micro-hat...thereby making all of the cures and remedies obsolete, perhaps even before distribution to the masses...EEK! Dr Fleury does a good job, too, with some of the more difficult aspects of the ins and outs of the immune it succeeds and how it fails. He finishes with a brief discussion of the future, and how panspermia (incoming and outgoing) might affect our colonization of distant worlds. A lot of good stuff in these lectures. Highly recommended, but maybe not when you're home in bed with the flu... The course if often on sale, a bargain, especially when there's a coupon involved.
Date published: 2018-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course, one of the very best. The subject of this course is microbes, the history of our understanding, how they work - right down to the DNA, the diseases they cause, how we fight them and how we use them. I haven't studied microbes before, so all the material was pretty new to me, but I found it utterly engrossing. Professor Fleury is the very best, and has a great sense of humor. There were lots of visual aids, which was helpful. The only place I had trouble was following some of the chemistry, but probably with a little more effort on my part it would have been clearer. One effect this course has had on me is to make me much more aware of all the microbes out there that we need to be careful of. It makes me wonder why we aren't all sick all the time. But he answers that in some excellent lectures on our immune systems. It was very alarming to learn of how mankind has used germ warfare, not just in WWII, but back to the Greeks. It even played a significant role in the American revolution. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2017-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! Totally absorbing presentation of the microbial environment we share with these both benevolent and malicious creatures. You couldn't ask for a better introduction to this subject.
Date published: 2017-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from rations are The lecturer speaks well and with excellent emphasis. Enough illustrations are provided to sustain concentration and provide information. For these reasons I would recommend the video.
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking! This Great Course is fantastically interesting and the Professor is entertaining and easy to listen to.
Date published: 2017-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from recommended for health science professionals I am retired pharmacist. My wife is an retired RN, BSN. We both find this course enjoyable, enlightening and a great review of microbiology. Instructor gets a A for content and an A for delivery. Outstanding overall.
Date published: 2017-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Fleury is a great speaker I'm fascinated by these lessons. Prof. Fleury makes the lessons so interesting that I could not stop listening to him. I learned a lot and had interesting afternoons. I'm happy that I purchased this course.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive discussion A realistic down to earth discussion of "small ehtities" that is focused for the person who has an interest in this subject but not a professional bacteriologist or research investigator.
Date published: 2017-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite intriguing and in depth explanation of the mysterious world only to be seen through the microscopic lens.
Date published: 2017-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from enjoyed the professors wit! I really enjoyed this course. It was informative, but also fun. I liked the Pandora's Box lecture, and was interested in the weapons of war information. But mostly I enjoyed the presentations.
Date published: 2017-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Facinating!!! Combines history, micro-biology, and economics in a truly unique and entertaining way! Professor is excellent. Easy to watch and understand.
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Absolutely Awful!! The professor appears to be made out of stone, and his attempts at humor were lame. contents of the course didn't agree with the title.
Date published: 2017-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sneeze, Choke, Cough, Croak Despite the name, this series does not cover all the amazing things you can see through a microscope, nor all microbial life in general, but the contagious diseases that afflict human beings and an occasional nod to the “good” microbes that we need to survive or that we can profit from. As Professor Bruce E. Fleury points out, microbes are everywhere. One study found band instruments crawling with seventy-seven fungi and 442 bacteria species. Another study of occupational work spaces found teachers were number one, with 17,800 bacteria per square inch. Of course there are also viruses and parasites too. We are in constant competition with them, our bodies trying to keep them out, the microbes trying to get in and use us to feed and reproduce, our inner defenses trying to destroy them, and the microbes evading or even exploiting our defenses, as in the case of AIDS. Perhaps even just sitting there reading this review, you are under attack! Yet for their own good, diseases can’t kill all of us or even too many of us without also dooming themselves. The common cold is very good at what it does, making us sneeze and cough to spread it at school and work rather than disabling us and forcing us to stay home, away from other people. Only some lectures cover specific diseases and they are spaced out rather than consecutive, namely the Black Death in Lecture 3, hookworm in Lecture 10, the Spanish Flu in Lectures 11 through 13, AIDS in Lecture 16 and 17, and smallpox in Lecture 22, though other diseases get some explanation too, like malaria, dengue fever, and Ebola. In other lectures Fleury discusses microbial reproduction, the “evolutionary arms race” among microbes and men, the workings of our immune system, autoimmune disorders, biological warfare and its hazards, and the possibility of microbial life in outer space. I consider this course excellent. The average layperson should be able to understand it easily, except the immune system is difficult to follow, simply because the subject is so complex. There are plenty of images. Fleury is a good lecturer, though his presentation style is a bit odd. At all times the ends of his mouth are turned down as if frowning, and he never changes expression. He is also stiff-backed and doesn’t seem to move his left arm, which always holds the remote control. Yet he clearly has a good sense of humor; he utters a steady stream of quips and at least once he hums the Jeopardy “timer” tune after asking a rhetorical question. So perhaps his “style” is really evidence of a stroke or some other injury, in which case he has my sympathy as well as respect.. In any case, I would be pleased to watch him in another course if the Great Courses decides to work with him again.
Date published: 2016-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Great Course` For anyone new to ecology or microbiology, I recommend this course. For others it will make good listening. I could not be more pleased with an audio experience for learning. Eddie Evans
Date published: 2016-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply terrific Professor Fleury presents fantastic results in an easily understandable way so that ordinary people can get an idea of what is happening under the microscope.
Date published: 2016-10-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from mis-titled & poor presentation Title might be - limited history of interaction of germs with people. Presentation is terrible. he looks at his prompter & never at me, mumbles with very poor enunciation. Shows a few pictures of small germs? with no title, scale, etc - useless graphics. If I had read the course content page I would not have ordered it so shame on me. Is NOT up to the usual good standards . Am returning this one.
Date published: 2016-09-07
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Mysteries of the Microscopic World
Course Trailer
The Invisible Realm
1: The Invisible Realm

Step into the hidden world of microbes and learn the challenges and advantages of being small-very small. Microbes live in a realm where water seems as thick as molasses and the smoothest surface conceals a canyon of hiding places. Also see how the geometry of a sphere explains how bacteria survive....

32 min
Stone Knives to Iron Plows
2: Stone Knives to Iron Plows

Turn back the clock to a time when our early ancestors escaped most epidemic diseases. But once we started gathering into villages, raising crops, and domesticating animals, we changed our niche and altered our habitat. Deadly microbes thrived in these new conditions....

32 min
The Angel of Death
3: The Angel of Death

Follow the trail of one of the most infamous microbes of all time, Yersinia pestis, the cause of the Black Death. Like typhus, malaria, and dengue fever, the Black Death is a vector-borne disease-one transmitted from human to human via a host intermediary; in this case, fleas....

28 min
Germ Theory
4: Germ Theory

In the days before the invention of the microscope and the rise of modern medicine, how did people explain a killer plague? Retrace the steps that led pioneers such as Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and Ignaz Semmelweis to the startling conclusion that organisms invisible to the naked eye cause disease....

27 min
The Evolutionary Arms Race
5: The Evolutionary Arms Race

In the first of three lectures on the coevolution that shapes our relationship with the microbial world, explore the discovery of antibiotics and the subsequent upsurge in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, driven by our overuse of drugs that were once a magic bullet against infection....

33 min
Microbial Strategies
6: Microbial Strategies

Probe the different mechanisms that humans have evolved to defeat microbial invaders, and the strategies evolved by microbes to thwart those defenses. For example, our immune system is primed to produce fever and other infection-fighting responses, but many microbes have developed frighteningly potent countermeasures....

30 min
7: Virulence

Virulence is a measure of the effectiveness of a microorganism at killing its victims. Discover that many diseases, such as syphilis, scarlet fever, and diphtheria, have grown less virulent due to competition and coevolution. On the other hand, vector-borne pathogens often succeed by growing more virulent....

29 min
Death by Chocolate
8: Death by Chocolate

Chart the human-created niches where microbes flourish. Trade, travel, and technological innovations provide new opportunities for the evolution or dispersal of pathogens, including Legionnaires' disease in air conditioning systems, toxoplasmosis in kitty litter, and Oropouche fever in fields cleared for the cultivation of cacao, used in making chocolate....

28 min
Bambi's Revenge
9: Bambi's Revenge

Consider more examples of how ecological disturbances, both natural and human-made, can benefit harmful microbes. Thanks to land-clearing and the subsequent explosion in the deer population, Lyme disease now occurs throughout much of the United States. More frightening and deadly, if less widespread, are hantavirus, Lassa fever, and Ebola....

30 min
The Germ of Laziness
10: The Germ of Laziness

The hookworm influenced an early 20th-century stereotype of Southerners as indolent and undernourished, and it may have contributed to the outcome of the Civil War. Chart the war waged against this debilitating parasite by zoologist Charles Wardell Stiles, whose public health crusade helped transform the South....

29 min
The 1918 Flu-A Conspiracy of Silence
11: The 1918 Flu-A Conspiracy of Silence

In the first of three lectures on the deadliest epidemic of all time, meet the virus that caused the 1918 flu, investigating its structure, method of infection, and strategy for evading the human immune system. Also learn where it first appeared and how it mutated into a far more virulent strain....

28 min
The 1918 Flu-The Philadelphia Story
12: The 1918 Flu-The Philadelphia Story

Track the mutated form of the 1918 flu as it reached American shores and killed an estimated 675,000 people out of a population of 105 million. Philadelphia is a horrifying example of the medieval-like conditions that affected a bustling city trying to deal with mass infection and death....

29 min
The 1918 Flu-The Search for the Virus
13: The 1918 Flu-The Search for the Virus

Follow one of the most gripping detective stories of modern times-the search to recover an intact virus from the 1918 flu. Also learn what made the 1918 flu a more powerful killer than the similar strain that attacked in 1976 and 2009....

28 min
Immunity-Self versus Non-Self
14: Immunity-Self versus Non-Self

Given the proliferation of microbes in our midst, why aren't we sick all the time? In the first of six lectures on the inner mysteries of the immune system, see how different cells have evolved to distinguish self from non-self, providing the first line of defense against infection....

29 min
Adaptive Immunity to the Rescue
15: Adaptive Immunity to the Rescue

Delve deeper into the mechanics of adaptive immunity to learn how a few hundred genes can easily make more than 100 million different antigen receptors, specific to any foreign invader that enters the body. Also discover the crucial difference between resistance and immunity....

30 min
AIDS-The Quiet Killer
16: AIDS-The Quiet Killer

In our age-old struggle with microbes, have we finally met our match with AIDS? The HIV virus that causes AIDS takes aim at the very heart of the human immune system. Probe this elegant strategy and learn where and when HIV first appeared, and why it is so lethal....

31 min
The Deadly Strategy of AIDS
17: The Deadly Strategy of AIDS

Explore the frightening scenarios that may yet unfold with the AIDS pandemic. Then follow the slow progress in developing an AIDS vaccine, and consider the policy of deferring questions of sexual morality to focus on preventing spread of the virus at all costs....

31 min
Autoimmunity-Self versus Self
18: Autoimmunity-Self versus Self

Consider what happens when the immune system turns on us, attacking our own cells and tissues as if we were the enemy. Such autoimmune diseases include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, and lupus. Examine the mysterious causes of this self-destructive reaction....

30 min
Allergies and Asthma
19: Allergies and Asthma

In the closing lecture on the human immune system, follow the microscopic chain of events that lead to allergies and asthma. Peanuts, pollen, bee stings, cat hair-all can cause an overreaction in the immune system, but for different reasons and with results that range from discomfort to death....

30 min
Microbes as Weapons
20: Microbes as Weapons

Investigate the history of microbes as weapons, which dates to the practice of catapulting disease-infected corpses into enemy strongholds. Germ warfare was even used during the American Revolutionary War, but it didn't reach maturity until World War II with Unit 731, the notorious project run by the Japanese....

29 min
Pandora's Box
21: Pandora's Box

As if from Pandora's box, the technology of germ warfare advanced during the cold war to a lethality rivaled only by atomic weapons. Draw back the curtain on the secret American and Soviet projects that perfected this weapon, and learn why biological warfare is the strategy of choice for terrorists....

30 min
Old World to New
22: Old World to New

When European explorers arrived in the New World, they unwittingly brought weapons far more lethal than firearms: namely, microbes, such as smallpox, that the Indians had never encountered. Learn why diseases bred through contact with domesticated animals in the Old World swept through the Americas like the angel of death....

29 min
Close Encounters of the Microbial Kind
23: Close Encounters of the Microbial Kind

Is there life beyond Earth? Space is filled with the chemicals essential for life, but so far only indirect evidence for possible microbial life has been found. Also, look at the microbes that thrive in extreme environments on Earth that may resemble conditions on other worlds....

31 min
Microbes as Friends
24: Microbes as Friends

In this last lecture, consider how the vast majority of microbes are harmless or even beneficial to humans. Microorganisms are responsible for everything from the oxygen in air to yogurt and many medicines. They may even help us clean up our planet, proving that the microscopic world is not always the stuff of nightmares!...

31 min
Bruce E. Fleury

What made this course special for me was how much I learned in the process of teaching it. You're never too old to learn.


Tulane University


Tulane University

About Bruce E. Fleury

Dr. Bruce E. Fleury is Professor of the Practice in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Tulane University. He earned a B.A. from the University of Rochester in Psychology and General Science, and an M.A. in Library, Media, and Information Studies from the University of South Florida. His career as a college reference librarian led him to Tulane University, where he became head of the university library's Science and Engineering Division. He went on to earn an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Biology, both from Tulane. Professor Fleury is the author of numerous articles and newspaper columns, both popular and professional, and a reference book on dinosaurs. He teaches between 600 and 700 students a year, and his courses include ornithology, introductory general biology and environmental biology, the history of life, and evolution in human health and disease. His teaching awards include two awards for outstanding teaching from the Tulane chapter of the Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society and a Mortar Board 'Last Lecture' Award, in which favorite professors are invited to give a lecture as if it were their last. Recently, Professor Fleury served as an advisor for Warner Brothers' space epic Green Lantern, working on several classroom and laboratory scenes, and serving as a 'consulting xenobiologist' on alien life.

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