Today is the birthday of Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek, born in 1632 in the Netherlands. While there is some dispute as to whether or not he deserves full credit for inventing the microscope, he is still known as the father of microbiology and is credited with discovering bacteria. Credit for naming bacteria, however, would have to wait almost 200 years for German naturalist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (1795-1876) to name it in 1838.
The word bacteria comes from the Modern Latin word bacterium, which in turn came from the Ancient Greek word bakterionmeaning a small staff, itself a diminutive of the word baktron meaning a stick or rod. Both words ultimately derive from the Proto-Indo European root *bak- meaning a staff used for support. The image above of e. coli clearly shows this resemblance.