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Mycology (from the Greek μύκης, meaning "fungus") is the study of fungi, their genetic and biochemical properties, their taxonomy, and their use to humans as a source for tinder, medicinals (e.g., penicillin), food (e.g., beer, wine, cheese, edible mushrooms) and entheogens, as well as their dangers, such as poisoning or infection. From mycology arose the field of phytopathology, the study of plant diseases, and the two disciplines remain closely related. A biologist who studies mycology is called a mycologist.


Historically, mycology was a branch of botany (though fungi are evolutionarily more closely related to animals than plants this was not recognized until recently). Pioneer mycologists included Elias Magnus Fries, Christian Hendrik Persoon, Anton de Bary and Lewis David von Schweinitz. The British Mycological Society was founded in 1896.

Today, the most comprehensively studied and understood fungi are the yeasts and eukaryotic model organisms Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

Many fungi produce toxins, antibiotics, and other secondary metabolites. For example, the cosmopolitan (worldwide) genus Fusarium and their toxins associated with fatal outbreaks of alimentary toxic aleukia in humans were extensively studied by Abraham Joffe. Fungi are fundamental for life on earth in their roles as symbionts, e.g. in the form of mycorrhizae, insect symbionts and lichens as well as their potency in breaking down complex organic biomolecules such as wood as well as xenobiotics, a critical step in the global carbon cycle.

Fungi and other organisms traditionally recognized as fungi (such as oomycetes and slime molds) often are economically and socially important as some cause diseases of animals (such as histoplasmosis) as well as plants (such as Dutch elm disease and Rice blast).

Field meetings to find interesting species of fungi are known as 'forays', after the first such meeting organized by the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club in 1868 and entitled "a foray among the funguses."

See also


  • Elias Magnus Fries, Systema mycologicum (1821) [1]
  • Hawksworth, D. L. Mycologist's Handbook. (1974) Kew: U.K., CAB International.

External links

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