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Center for the History of Microbiology/ASM Archives (CHOMA)

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In 1935 the Society of American Bacteriologists (now ASM) established a Committee on Archives, whose charge was to acquire and maintain the records of the Society, and to collect materials relating to the history of microbiology. These materials remained in the possession of the committee chair (Barnett Cohen, 1935-1952; Leland S. McClung, 1952-1982) until an agreement was struck with the University of Maryland Baltimore County to house the ASM Archives. The Book Collection was transferred to UMBC in 1978, and the

 remainder of the materials arrived in 1982.                                                             (UMBC's Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery Picture Courtesy of Tim Ford) Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) The establishment of a Center for the History of Microbiology was proposed and supported by Leland McClung and Donald Shay.  The idea behind the Center was based on existing centers for the history of chemistry and physics. After two years of planning, the Center for the History of Microbiology was established at a ceremony at UMBC on 4 June 1985 (ASM NEWS Vol. 51 No. 8 1985.)  ASM's Center for the History of Microbiology and Archives Collection includes records of the Society from its founding in 1899 to the present, including journals and proceedings of meetings; 9,000 volumes on microbiology and related topics; photographs of scientists and microbes; topical files on various aspects of microbiology, including biographical materials; instructional materials, including slides and motion pictures; and several collections of personal papers. For further information, or to make an appointment to visit the Archives, please contact the Archivist, Jeff Karr, at 410-455-3601 or

History of Microbiology from ASM Microbe 2019 in San Francisco, CA

Lectures, Sessions, Posters, Exhibit Sponsored by the Center for the History of Microbiology/ASM Archives at ASM Microbe 2019

History of Microbiology Exhibit

  • Dates:  Friday – Sunday, June 21-23, 2019
  • Times: Exhibit Hall Hours
  • Place:  Moscone Convention Center, ASM Exhibit Hall

History of Microbiology Lecture

Mildred Rebstock, PhD and the synthesis of chloramphenicol

  • Date:  Saturday, June 22, 2019
  • Time:  1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
  • Place:  Moscone Convention Center, Room 2022 West
  • Mildred Rebstock, PhD (1919-2011) was a medicinal chemist employed by Parke-Davis and Company to work on antibiotic development in the 1940s following World War II. Dr. Rebstock played a leading role in synthesizing, for the first time, a naturally-occurring antibiotic made in the soil by actinomycete bacteria. This drug, chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin) rapidly transformed the medical treatment of a wide range of infectious diseases and Dr. Rebstock was immediately celebrated for her accomplishment. Her story underscores important contributions by women in antimicrobial development and medicinal chemistry, as well as the challenges faced by female scientists working in a male-dominated industry.  This year would have been Dr. Rebstock’s 100th birthday and is the 70thanniversary of the announcement of the successful synthesis of chloramphenicol.
  • David M. Aronoff; Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN

History of Microbiology Symposium –

75th Anniversary of the Discovery of Streptomycin, the First Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic

  • Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
  • Time:  1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
  • Location:  Moscone Convention Center, Room 215/216 South
  • Description:  Examining the development of antibiotic therapy from the “birth” 75 years ago of streptomycin, the first broad spectrum antibiotic, to now, the session addresses how soil microbiology led to streptomycin, the Actinomycetes and evolution of antibiotics, Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR), and current world TB antibiotic status. Speakers explore the history and legacy of streptomycin, from the first full medical antibiotic trials to unravelling aspects of resistance and its underlying genetic mechanisms. The session also discusses early university/industrial joint research that served as a model for future research efforts, and the critical role women played in the field starting in WWII. Attendees from many disciplines will contemplate how their own science has been shaped by this game-changing broad spectrum antibiotic, which brought dramatic cures but also multidrug resistant pathogens, and will increase their understanding of how one historic discovery dramatically changed and enhanced the course of world health.
  • Moderators: 
    • Joan Bennett; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ
    • Melanie Armstrong; Western Colorado University, Gunnison, CO
  • Speakers:
    • Doug Eveleigh; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ
      • The History of Streptomycin Discovery – Soil Microbiology, Teams and the Pharmaceutical Industry
    • Leonard Katz; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, Emeryville, CA
      • The Actinomycete Antibiotic Erythromycin: Discovery, Biosynthesis and Drug Improvements
    • Karen Bush; Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
      • How Resistance to the Earliest Antibiotics Drove Pharmaceutical Research
    • E. Jane Carter; International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Paris, France
      • End TB 2030: Lessons from Streptomycin
    • Q&A

Questions?  Contact ASM Archivist:   or