Dissimilatory Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reduction has an important influence on the geochemistry of modern environments, and Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms, most notably those in the Geobacteraceae family, can play an important role in the bioremediation of subsurface environments contaminated with organic or metal contaminants. Microorganisms with the capacity to conserve energy from Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reduction are phylogenetically dispersed throughout the Bacteria and Archaea. The ability to oxidize hydrogen with the reduction of Fe(III) is a highly conserved characteristic of hyperthermophilic microorganisms and one Fe(III)-reducing Archaea grows at the highest temperature yet recorded for any organism. Fe(III)- and Mn(IV)-reducing microorganisms have the ability to oxidize a wide variety of organic compounds, often completely to carbon dioxide. Typical alternative electron acceptors for Fe(III) reducers include oxygen, nitrate, U(VI) and electrodes. Unlike other commonly considered electron acceptors, Fe(III) and Mn(IV) oxides, the most prevalent form of Fe(III) and Mn(IV) in most environments, are insoluble. Thus, Fe(III)- and Mn(IV)-reducing microorganisms face the dilemma of how to transfer electrons derived from central metabolism onto an insoluble, extracellular electron acceptor. Although microbiological and geochemical evidence suggests that Fe(III) reduction may have been the first form of microbial respiration, the capacity for Fe(III) reduction appears to have evolved several times as phylogenetically distinct Fe(III) reducers have different mechanisms for Fe(III) reduction. Geobacter species, which are representative of the family of Fe(III) reducers that predominate in a wide diversity of sedimentary environments, require direct contact with Fe(III) oxides in order to reduce them. In contrast, Shewanella and Geothrix species produce chelators that solubilize Fe(III) and release electron-shuttling compounds that transfer electrons from the cell surface to the surface of Fe(III) oxides not in direct contact with the cells. Electron transfer from the inner membrane to the outer membrane in Geobacter and Shewanella species appears to involve an electron transport chain of inner-membrane, periplasmic, and outer-membrane c-type cytochromes, but the cytochromes involved in these processes in the two organisms are different. In addition, Geobacter species specifically express flagella and pili during growth on Fe(III) and Mn(IV) oxides and are chemotactic to Fe(II) and Mn(II), which may lead Geobacter species to the oxides under anoxic conditions. The physiological characteristics of Geobacter species appear to explain why they have consistently been found to be the predominant Fe(III)- and Mn(IV)-reducing microorganisms in a variety of sedimentary environments. In comparison with other respiratory processes, the study of Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reduction is in its infancy, but genome-enabled approaches are rapidly advancing our understanding of this environmentally significant physiology.