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Keywords:

  • cyanobacteria;
  • cyanotoxins;
  • toxigenic species;
  • retrospective view;
  • new research frontiers

Abstract

A retrospective view of the development of research on cyanobacteria and their toxins—in Norway and worldwide—is cursorily examined. Combined with a personal narrative of the work and life of the author, the relevant research progress in the last 50 years of the 20th century is outlined. This was the period in biology when research of toxigenic cyanobacteria was coming to a head. The knowledge and understanding achieved were the result of a collective international enterprise binding the community of specialists together. The noxious organisms were isolated, and the basic chemistry, physiology, and toxicology of the specific cyanotoxins were settled. At the threshold today of what is widely regarded as the century of biology, the study of toxigenic cyanobacteria is undergoing important transformations. New frontiers include the interface between molecular biology, biochemistry, toxicology, and ecology. The results of the basic and applied research efforts will expand the understanding of cyanobacteria and be beneficial to the management of natural resources and the care of human beings. The tiny cyanobacteria, being a geological force in the dynamics of the globe, will continually become more central to the modern world and be applied more closely, affecting our lives. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 20: 220–228, 2005.