According to Woese:
The acceptance of the validity of Woese’s classification was a slow and painful process. Famous figures, including Salvador Luria and Ernst Mayr, objected to his division of the prokaryotes. Not all criticism of him was restricted to the scientific level. Not without reason has Woese been dubbed “Microbiology’s Scarred Revolutionary” by the journal Science. The growing amount of supporting data led the scientific community in general to accept the Archaea by the mid-1980s. A shrinking minority of scientists still adhere to concepts of evolutionary radiation, but Woese appears to have been vindicated in his convictions.
The archaea are unique organisms. While prokaryotes in the cytological sense, they are actually more closely related to eukaryotes than to the bacteria. They are of particular interest for this reason alone-they are simple organisms whose study should provide insights into the nature and evolution of the eukaryotic cell. Their study is also central to an understanding of the nature of the ancestor common to all life. The archaea are, of course, interesting in their own right. The group contains both the methanogens and numerous organisms that grow at extremely high temperatures (in some cases above 100°C). As such, they provide potential insights into mechanisms of thermophilia and methanogenesis.
- Friend, Tim. The Third Domain: The Untold Story of Archaea and the Future of Biotechnology (Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2007).
- Woese, Carl and Fox, George. “Phylogenetic structure of the prokaryotic domain: The primary kingdoms,” PNAS USA 74 (11): 5088–5090 (1 Nov 1977).
- Woese, Carl, Kandler, Otto, and Wheelis, Marc. “Towards a natural system of organisms: Proposal for the domains Archaea, Bacteria, and Eucarya,” PNAS USA 87 (12): 4576–4579 (1 June 1990).