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Warburg seemed most interested in the kinetics of photosynthesis. Obviously Barcroft's manometer provided an ideal system for measuring photosynthesis because of the involvement of gases. But what kind of plant material could be used in such a small container? This must have presented a dilemma, compounded no doubt by another difficult-to-satisfy requirement at that time-the material would have to be bacteriologically sterile. Bacteria and other nonphotosynthetic micro-organisms usually found as contaminants are heterotrophic, and in their metabolism take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide-the complete reverse of photosynthesis. Obviously one could not investigate photosynthesis with non-sterile plant material. But what could be used? Sterile plant-tissue culture was a long way off: there were no antibiotics to help in the sterilisation of smallaquatic plants such as or . Warburg consulted a botanist uncle, who suggested using a green alga . Beyerinck had isolated this organism in axenic culture quite a few years earlier, and it would more than likely have been available from Pringsheim's collection of algal cultures. This was truly a brilliant suggestion! The alga is microscopically small and eminently suited to this kind of micro-experimentation. It could also be maintained indefinitely in a sterile condition and grown on a completely inorganic and chemically-reproducible medium whose components could be got in pure form off the laboratory shelf. What better could be used? Little could Warburg have realised the fashion he was establishing! He also used an enhanced carbon dioxide concentration. It must be emphasised that was chosen possibly for no other reason than that it would have been one of very few algae available at that time in a bacteriologically-free condition.
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