Skip to Main Content

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

Milestones in Microbiology

ASM Milestones in Microbiology Overview

The ASM Milestones in Microbiology program (MiMP), administered by the Milestones in Microbiology Committee (MiMC), a sub-committee of the Center for the History of Microbiology/ASM (CHOMA) Archives Committee, recognizes institutions and their related scientists that have made significant contributions toward advancing the science of microbiology.  By placing explanatory plaques at these sites, ASM hopes to increase professional and public recognition of the significance of the science of microbiology. 

For more information on the program, click here to consult the program guidelines or the ASM Archivist at

Proposals for Future Site Designations

The Milestones in Microbiology Committee accepts nominations for proposed Milestones sites at any time during the year. 

For information on how to nominate future Milestones sites, please click here: Milestones in Microbiology - Program Guidelines.

Evaluation Criteria

The evaluation criteria used by the Milestones in Microbiology Committee (MiMC) to assess a nomination will be principally based on the significant microbiological achievements at the proposed site. Support of a site’s nomination is demonstrated through primary source documentation including photographs, correspondence, lab records, contemporary news coverage or related publicity, and such.

  • Milestones Sites must be unique (e.g., first-ever, oldest extant, one-of-a kind, or last surviving example), or important in some singular manner. The site must be important in terms of time and the effects on North American welfare and society in general.
  • Unique achievements should have impacted society at large.

To emphasize the long-term educational nature of the program, support of the nomination should include evidence of the following:

  • Suitability of the public location; general visibility and long-term nature of the plaque are integral considerations.
  • Specific outreach to microbiologists, especially at local educational institutions, colleges, universities, and medical, scientific and industrial research centers.
  • Efforts to make the historical record available to educators, students, the civic communities and historians (e.g., a site brochure/flyer; citations for pertinent websites).
  • General condition of the site noting any prior alterations.

Milestones in Microbiology Designated Sites

(listed by year in which site was designated; most recent listed first)

University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA
Designated as a Milestones Site in May 2023

Saranac Laboratory
Saranac Lake, NY
Designated as a Milestones Site in October 2019

University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN
Designated as a Milestones Site in July 2019

Founders Building, University of Texas at Dallas
Dallas, TX
Designated as a Milestones Site in November 2016

Merck Research Laboratories 
Rahway, NJ and West Point, PA
Designated as a Milestones Site in October 2016
Ocean Station ALOHA, University of Hawai'i at Manoa 
Manoa, Hawaii
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2015

Department of Microbiology and Immunology of the University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2015

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana-Champaign, IL
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2015

The Rockefeller University 
New York, NY
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2015

University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology
Madison, WI
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2014

Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, Site of H W Conn Research Laboratory at Connecticut Agricultural College (now University of Connecticut Storrs) 
Storrs, CT
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2013

Marine Biological Laboratory Microbial Diversity Course 
Woods Hole, MA
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2013

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Cold Spring Harbor, NY
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2012 

School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Tulane University
New Orleans, LA
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2011

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography
La Jolla, CA
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2010

Site of the Former Laboratory of Hygiene
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2009

Loeb Laboratory
Hopkins Marine Station
Monterey, CA 
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2004

Selman Waksman's Laboratory
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ 
Designated as a Milestones Site in 2002

Program Guidelines

To promote greater awareness and appreciation of microbiology, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has established the Milestones in Microbiology Program (MiMP), which recognizes sites where major developments occurred and/or where outstanding microbiologists made seminal discoveries.  The objectives of the Milestones in Microbiology Program are to foster interest in the nation’s microbiological heritage and to remind citizens, educators and “visitors” of the importance of microbiology. 

The Milestones in Microbiology Committee welcomes nominations of prospective Milestones sites, and has prepared two documents for use by individuals or groups wishing to nominate a site for designation.

ANNUAL DEADLINE for Site Nominations - January 31st. 

For questions or to obtain additional information, contact the ASM Archivist at

University of Iowa (UI)


The American Society for Microbiology is honored to designate the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Iowa as a “Milestones in Microbiology” site. The university was designated as a Milestones site on May 19 at a symposium celebrating the 85th anniversary of the department. ASM President Colleen Kraft, presented the Milestones plaque to the University of Iowa on behalf of ASM.

“The University of Iowa has not only met, but exceeded the criteria required for recognition as a Milestones in Microbiology site,” said Kraft. “ASM is proud to recognize the University of Iowa as a Milestones site for its many findings that have had far-reaching impact in the sciences and society at-large.”

University of Iowa Plaque Installation

University of Iowa Milestones Plaque Installation


Milestones Plaque

Milestones in Microbiology Site - University of Iowa (1)

Milestones in Microbiology Site - University of Iowa (2)


Purpose of the Milestones in Microbiology Program

The “Milestones in Microbiology” program was established by ASM to promote greater awareness and appreciation of microbiology. The award recognizes sites where major developments and pivotal discoveries occurred. The University of Iowa is being recognized for its many research accomplishments that have had broad international impact on fundamental and translational microbiology.

The Saranac Laboratory


The Saranac Laboratory in Saranac Lake, N.Y. was named a Milestones in Microbiology site by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) on October 11, 2019, in recognition of its historic and revolutionary contributions to the understanding and treatment of tuberculosis (TB).


Saranac Laboratory Contributions

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau founded the Saranac Laboratory in 1894 as the first facility in the United States built specifically for research on TB. Trudeau was one of the first American researchers to confirm Robert Koch’s findings that Mycobacterium tuberculosis was the causal agent of tuberculosis. Building on those findings, Trudeau and other scientists at Saranac Laboratory, and later at the companion Trudeau Research and Clinical Laboratory (founded in 1924), conducted studies that led to key advances in the field. 

In groundbreaking experiments, Trudeau established that both  Mycobacterium tuberculosis  and the environment contribute to the development of TB. With this new knowledge, he pioneered innovative effective TB treatments. He founded a sanatorium for patients, which proved so successful in treating the disease that it served as the model for hundreds of sanatoria throughout the United States and Canada. As word spread about this new way to treat TB, the village of Saranac Lake became a center for patients of all economic and social classes seeking state-of-the-art TB treatment.

Other notewothy microbiologists made critical advances at the Trudeau laboratories in Saranac Lake:

  • Strashimir A. Petroff developed improved methods to culture the tubercle bacillus.
  • William Steenken Jr. isolated H37Rv, the most commonly used laboratory TB strain, and conducted research that led to the introduction of effective anti-tubercular drug therapies.
  • Edward R. Baldwin started the Trudeau Mycobacterial Culture Collection, which included some of the earliest isolates of M. tuberculosis, and for decades, was the most comprehensive assembly of pathogenic mycobacteria in the world.

The Saranac Laboratory was renowned as a global center for scientific training. The Trudeau School for Tuberculosis, established by Baldwin in 1916, was an annual six-week course that trained physicians and scientists from around the world in the latest developments in TB treatment and research.

After the Saranac Laboratory closed in 1964, experiments moved to the Trudeau Institute, where Trudeau’s scientific legacy continues to inspire advances in the microbial sciences.

Saranac Laboratory Milestones Plaque (Facsimile) with (L-R) Brian Weinrick, Amy Catania, Mary Hotaling, Robin Patel, William Jacobs; photo courtesy of Trudeau Institute (K. Keck)


Milestones in Microbiology Ceremony

The Milestones ceremony was held in conjunction with a day-long symposium, “From Rabbit Island to Reporter Strains: A symposium celebrating over 125 years of tuberculosis research in Saranac Lake,” held at the Trudeau Institute. Organized by Drs. Brian Weinrick (Trudeau Institute), William Jacobs (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), and Keith Derbyshire (Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health), the symposium featured talks by leading TB researchers.    

2019 TB Symposium at Trudeau Institute (photo courtesy of Trudeau Institute, K. Keck)

Following the symposium, attendees congregated at Saranac Laboratory Museum, site of Trudeau’s original laboratory, to view exhibits on Trudeau and the groundbreaking work that took place there. Amy Catania, Executive Director of Historic Saranac Lake, the non-profit organization overseeing the museum, welcomed all the attendees, including members of Historic Saranac Lake, symposium participants, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, Keith Derbyshire, Director, Division of Genetics, Wadsworth Center Laboratories, NYS Department of Health representing Governor Cuomo, and State Senator Betty Little, who congratulated the museum for the important role it plays in making the Saranac Laboratory legacy known and appreciated in the local community and beyond.

Catania announced that United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter of recognition, and United States Congressperson Elise Stefanik added mention of the Milestones occasion to the Congressional Record. 

Attendees toasted (with champagne) the newest Milestones in Microbiology site, and ASM President Robin Patel presented the Milestones plaque to the museum. “The work conducted at Saranac Laboratory, and later at Trudeau Institute, not only expanded our understanding of TB exponentially, but served as a guide as to how to treat this life threatening disease,” Patel said. “ASM is honored to recognize the Saranac Laboratory as a Milestones site for its contributions that have advanced the science and society’s understanding of TB.”

After a reception, Trudeau Institute President and Director Atsuo Kuki concluded the Milestones festivities with brief remarks on current and planned future research programs at the Institute. Milestones Plaque The Milestones plaque will be prominently displayed in the Saranac Lake museum where it will be readily accessible to the general public. 


Local Press Coverage

Adirondack Daily Enterprise


Purpose of the Milestones in Microbiology Program

The Milestones in Microbiology program was established by ASM to promote greater awareness and appreciation of the microbial sciences and stimulate interest in microbiological heritage. The award recognizes and honors institutions and scientists who have made significant contributions toward advancing the microbial sciences. 

University of Minnesota (UMN)


The University of Minnesota (UMN) was named a Milestones in Microbiology site by the American Society for Microbiology on July 19, 2019.  The Milestones designation recognizes the University’s many ground-breaking discoveries that have provided fundamental knowledge about a wide range of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, biofilms, yeast, and myxobacteria. 


Purpose of the Milestones in Microbiology Program

The Milestones in Microbiology program was established by ASM to promote greater awareness and appreciation of the microbial sciences and stimulate interest in microbiological heritage. The award recognizes and honors institutions and scientists who have made significant contributions toward advancing the microbial sciences. 


University of Minnesota Contributions

Research – For over 100 years, UMN Department of Microbiology and Immunology faculty have made wide-ranging, far-reaching contributions in the microbial sciences.  Notable accomplishments include

  • pioneering work on bacterial growth and structure leading to the concept of biofilms (Arthur T. Henrici, 1933)
  • advances in the studies of animal viral infections and the discovery of what was later recognized as the first identified adenovirus (Robert G. Green)
  • uncovering of the roles of T and B lymphocytes in immune response and use of the knowledge to perform the first successful allogeneic human bone marrow transplant (Robert A. Good)
  • development of effective strategies to prevent post-streptococcal rheumatic fever and glomerulonephritis (Lewis W. Wannamaker)
  • landmark work on bacterial toxins and interactions (Dennis Watson)
  • foundational research on multicellular behavior of prokaryotes, using myxobacteria as model organisms (Martin Dworkin)
  • and more

Education – Throughout its history and continuing today, The University of Minnesota has not only been a center for outstanding microbiology research, but also for education.  A few examples:

  • Beyond his scientific achievements, Henrici was regarded as an extraordinary teacher whose textbook Biology of Bacteria went through three editions. 
  • Wannamaker trained scores of infectious disease physicians who went on to lead Divisions of Infectious Disease in the United States and around the world. 
  • Dworkin was renowned as a consummate teacher for more than 4 decades, sharing not only a body of knowledge, but also his excitement and passion for microbiology.
  • Ashley Haase, the current Department of Microbiology and Immunology Head who has served in the role since 1984, has fostered the Department’s growth and development of institutes, centers, and graduate programs with strong emphasis on microbiology and immunology.



The Milestones designation also commemorates the productive relationship over the years between UMN and ASM, formerly known as SAB (Society of American Bacteriologists):

  • 2 UMN faculty have served as presidents of the Society:  Arthur Henrici (1939) and Dennis Watson (1969).
  • Countless numbers of faculty and students have been and are active members of the Society.
  • The University currently supports 3 active ASM Student/Postdoctoral Chapters. 


Milestones in Microbiology Ceremony

The Milestones ceremony was held during a symposium to celebrate the centennial of the UM Department of Microbiology and Immunology.  The symposium included research presentations from current and former UMN faculty and students, as well as presentations on the history of UMN microbiology research (Ashley Haase, current Department Chair) and immunology research (Mark Jenkins, Director, Center for Immunology).  

Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of ASM, gave a short presentation on current initiatives of ASM, as well as an overview of the Milestones program.  ASM President Robin Patel spoke on the significance of UMN to the microbial sciences.  Patel presented the Milestones plaque to Michal Hsu, UMN Regent, who accepted it on behalf of the University.

“Ground-breaking work in the areas of bacterial toxins, biofilms, multicellularity, and therapy, alongside significant discoveries in virology and lymphocyte biology are only a sampling of the many research areas that the University of Minnesota has advanced,” Patel commented. “ASM is proud to recognize the University of Minnesota as a Milestones site for its many pioneering findings that have had far-reaching impact in the sciences and society at-large.”


Milestones Plaque

The Milestones plaque will be prominently displayed in the entrance area of the Microbiology Research Facility / Center for Immunology building.  


Founders Building, University of Texas at Dallas


(L-R) Susan Sharp, ASM President, and Inga Musselman, Senior Vice Provost, UT-Dallas, unveiling the Milestones Plaque


Milestones Recognition

The American Society for Microbiology designates the Founders Building, University of Texas at Dallas as a Milestones in Microbiology site. The Milestones in Microbiology designation recognizes the achievements of the University of Texas at Dallas (UT-Dallas) scientists in molecular biology, in advancing medical science and in providing fundamental insights into bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.


Milestones Site Dedication Ceremony

The plaque that marks the UT-Dallas Founders Building as a Milestones in Microbiology site was unveiled on November 10, 2016, in a ceremony held at the building.  Susan Sharp, President of ASM, presented the Milestones plaque on behalf of ASM.  Inga Musselman, Senior Vice Provost, UT-Dallas, accepted the plaque on behalf of the site.


Milestones Plaque


Historical Background and Perspective

Earliest History of the Site – In October 1964, the Founders Building was dedicated as the centerpiece of the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW), a private research institution, which in 1967, was renamed as the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies (SCAS), and then in 1969 became The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas).  As the first permanent structure on The University of Texas at Dallas campus, the Founders Building sits at the physical and historical heart of the University.   In those early days, the building hosted faculty and visiting scholars from around the globe who conducted research and graduate education in mathematics, physics, geosciences, and atmospheric and space science.  Biology, focusing on genetics and microbiology, was the largest division and the only molecular biology department in the Southwest at the time.  Together those programs formed the core that would become UT-Dallas’ School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The biology division included leaders in the field of microbiology, the study of organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protists and phages (viruses that infect bacteria).  The first head of the Genetics Division was the phage biologist Carsten Bresch, who had been one of the first students of Max Delbrück, founder of the world-renowned Phage School.  Among the earliest faculty recruits to the Genetics Division were Claud (Stan) Rupert, Hans Bremer, and Roy Clowes, whose accomplishments are highlighted below.  A great deal of the early microbiology research done at UT Dallas was published in ASM journals. 

Overview of Significance of Site – In its 50+ years, the Founders Building has welcomed some of the most distinguished scientists in the world, whose research – and that of their students and protégés – has advanced medical science and provided fundamental insights into the natural world, especially bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.  Biology (and microbiology in particular) has a rich history at UT Dallas and its predecessor institutions.  Research conducted in this building has made major contributions to understanding the molecular genetics of bacteria and their viruses (bacteriophages).  In overview, this designation honors the early developments of “molecular biology.”    

Foundations of “Molecular Biology” – Early microbial genetics research at UT Dallas was integral to the development of the field of Molecular Biology.  This “Molecular Biology” is firmly rooted in microbiology – the study of bacterial and phage genetics that prominently figures in the history of the Founders Building.  

Regional Influence – Microbiologists working in the Founders Building were “pioneers,” introducing the new science of Molecular Biology to Texas and the Southwest region of the United States.  

International Influence – From its very beginning, the Genetics Division of the GRSCW/SCAS was an international enterprise.  The internationally-renowned Phage School and European scientists were influential on the early development of GRSCW/SCAS.  Numerous trainees (PhDs and post-docs) of the Genetics Division and its descendants went on to highly successful careers in academia or industry (examples: Ry Young, now Professor, Texas A&M University; John Ryals, President and CEO, Metabolon).  Several of the early faculty went on to continue distinguished careers in Europe and the US (example: Hermann Bujard left a faculty position at SCAS to join Heidelberg University.  He later helped to establish the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Centre for Molecular Biology at Heidelberg University).  Thus, GRSCW/SCAS has had a tremendous influence on the development of molecular biology in the US and worldwide.

Influence on Other Disciplines – Research activity in the department in other areas (cancer biology, neurobiology, biochemistry, cell biology) is to a large extent built upon the methodological foundations that were established by the early microbial geneticists. 

Educational Mission – The Division of Genetics of the GRCSW Molecular Sciences Laboratory was the predecessor of the current Department of Biological Sciences.  Microbiological research and teaching have long played a vital role in the mission of the Department. 

Specific Accomplishments – Microbiologists at UT Dallas and its predecessor institutions used the bacterium Escherichia coli as a model organism to elucidate fundamental molecular biological principles concerning the repair, transfer and expression of DNA.  In overview, the nomination encompasses the early developments of “molecular biology” – plasmids (Clowes), growth regulation (Bremer), and phage development including the highlight of the photoactivation of DNA repair (Rupert).

  • DNA Repair – Claud S. Rupert did seminal research on enzymes in bacteria that are activated by visible light and are involved with repairing damage to DNA caused by ultraviolet light; he was among the first to describe a light-activated DNA repair process that requires a photoreactivating enzyme, or photolyase.  Rupert joined GRCSW from Johns Hopkins University, where he had discovered light-activated DNA repair.  At GRCSW, Rupert continued to study photo-activation of DNA repair in Escherichia coli and other microorganisms.  In 1978, Rupert and his student Aziz Sancar (Nobel Laureate, 2015, joint award) reported the cloning of the phr gene that encodes the E. coli photolyase.  Sancar believes that phr was the first gene to be cloned (in a recombinant plasmid) anywhere in the US outside of California.  
  • DNA Repair – Aziz Sancar (co-recipient 2015 Nobel Prize, 2015, for mechanistic studies of DNA repair), while a doctoral student at UT-Dallas in Rupert’s laboratory, successfully isolated the E. coli photolyase gene, which is critical to DNA repair in bacteria.  Sancar earned his PhD in molecular and cell biology in 1977.  His PhD research conducted in the Founders Building formed the foundation of subsequent work that led to his 2015 Nobel Prize (joint award) in chemistry. He is the first alumnus to earn the prize.
  • Plasmid Biology – Royston Clowes, an influential microbial geneticist who headed the biology division for several years, was internationally renowned for his research on the molecular biology of genetic elements (plasmids and transposons) that mediate DNA transfer.  He did much to further understanding of the biology of plasmids and to lay the groundwork for their development as experimental tools.  His work had implications for medicine and was at the center of recombinant DNA technology, which has had wide-ranging applications in biotechnology, laboratory research and drug development. His research was central to a better understanding of drug-resistance factors in disease-causing bacteria. Clowes’ "milestone" contributions in this area include the genetic and physical characterization of plasmids  and studies of the mechanisms of plasmid and chromosome transfer.  Together with other distinguished microbiologists (Naomi Datta, Stan Cohen, Stan Falkow, Roy Curtiss and Richard Novick), Clowes co-authored a definitive plasmid nomenclature and the “plasmid subgroup” report for the 1974 Asilomar meeting that formed the basis for the Guidelines for Recombinant DNA Research.  Clowes also did important work on transposons and the exotoxin A of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, including one of the first reports of the isolation of DNA sequences encoding the toxin.  Besides his research papers, Clowes also authored several important books, including the highly influential “Experiments in Molecular Genetics” (co-authored with Bill Hayes). 
  • Bacterial Growth and the Synthesis of Macromolecules – Hans Bremer, associated with the institution for close to 50 years, uncovered fundamental physiological principles in bacterial growth and the synthesis of macromolecules.  He made important contributions to the study of the growth rate regulation of ribosomal protein and RNA synthesis in Escherichia coli.  "Milestone" contributions of Bremer’s include elucidation of the role of ppGpp in controlling the rate of stable RNA synthesis, the discovery that the second ppGpp synthetase activity of E. coli is the product of the spoT gene, and many studies of the growth rate regulation of macromolecular synthesis.  Much of Bremer’s work is characterized by a strong quantitative and theoretical component, which reflects his roots in the Phage School.  Still associated with UT-Dallas, Bremer’s publishing career with the institutions associated with the Founders Building spans nearly fifty years.


In ADDITION –  Besides the individuals highlighted above, early members of GRCSW and SCAS included phage biologists and geneticists working on bacteria, yeast, Physarum, and protozoa.     


  • Annual Reports published by GRCSW and SCAS from 1964-65 through 1968-69 are freely available in the UT Dallas archive (  These detail the institute’s personnel, their achievements, and the development of the campus


L-R) Bruce Novak, UT-Dallas Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Susan Sharp, ASM President, Stephen Spiro, Head, Department of Biological Sciences UT-Dallas and Inga Musselman, Senior Vice Provost UT-Dallas, with Milestones in Microbiology Plaque 

Merck Research Laboratories

Roger Perlmutter, President, Merck Research Laboratories, and Susan E. Sharp, President, American Society for Microbiology (photo courtesy of Merck Creative Studios)


Milestones Recognition

The American Society for Microbiology designates Merck Research Laboratories as a Milestones in Microbiology site. The Milestones in Microbiology designation is made in recognition of Merck Research Laboratories’ strong and sustained legacy of anti-infective and vaccine research, and encompasses work accomplished in both the Rahway, NJ and West Point, PA facilities.   


Milestones Site Dedication Ceremony

The plaques that will mark Merck Research Laboratories (MRL) as a Milestones in Microbiology site were unveiled on October 17, 2016, in a ceremony held in conjunction with the opening of Merck's 125th Anniversary celebration.  Susan Sharp, President of ASM, presented the plaque on behalf of ASM.  Roger Perlmutter, President of MRL, accepted the plaque on behalf of Merck

(L-R) Roger Perlmutter, President, Merck Research Laboratories, Susan E. Sharp, President, American Society for Microbiology, Kenneth C. Frazier, CEO, Merck & Co. (photo courtesy of Merck Creative Studios)


Milestones Plaques



Historical Background and Perspective

The Milestones designation is for Merck Research Laboratories’ strong and sustained legacy of anti-infective and vaccine research, and recognizes accomplishments in both the Rahway, NJ and West Point, PA facilities.  


Pioneering Breakthroughs and Contributions – Since its opening in 1903, Merck’s Rahway facility has been the location for many therapeutic breakthroughs in the anti-infective space.  Notably, scientists at Rahway conducted pioneering work in the development of

  • penicillin,
  • streptomycin,
  • Mefoxin® (cefoxitin),
  • Primaxin®(imipenem/cilastatin),
  • Mectizan® (ivermectin) and
  • Cancidas® (caspofungin acetate) g. as well as other life-saving products 

New Way to Conduct Inquiry: Formal Collaboration Between Academia and Industry – Merck worked with Selman Waksman (Rutgers University, New Jersey) to secure one of the earliest formal collaborations between a business and a university.  This early example of effective, cooperative academic and industrial collaboration is still touted today, and this partnership and later collaboration with Mayo Clinic allowed Merck scientists to show that streptomycin was the chemotherapeutic medicine found to be effective for tuberculosis.

Large Scale Production of Penicillin – While Merck cannot claim the discovery of penicillin, the company developed one of the first methods for its large scale production.  Prior to Merck’s involvement, academic scientists were producing penicillin in static cultures on nutrient media. This process was laborious and yielded limited quantities of the active ingredient for therapeutic purposes.  Merck scientists and engineers worked to scale up and enhance the penicillin yields from these cultures. Using pilot plants, they generated several hundred liters of penicillium culture that by March 1942 had yielded enough penicillin for the first patient, and another 10 cases were treated by June 1942. Further work involving Merck working in collaboration with other pharmaceutical companies and government agencies succeeded in advancing and refining a method of deep tank fermentation that increased yields substantially and ultimately paved the way for the mass production of penicillin.

Streptomycin – In 1939, Professor Selman A. Waksman of Rutgers University and George W. Merck, Merck ’s then CEO, secured one of the first ever formal collaborations between a business and a university to further explore the potential for isolating and characterizing antimicrobial agents derived from actinomycetes species found in soil samples. This agreement provided Waksman with support from Merck’s chemists and access to extensive animal testing resources, as well as state of the art pilot plant facilities.  This early example of effective, cooperative academic and industrial collaboration is still touted today and this partnership and later collaboration with Mayo Clinic allowed Merck scientists to show that streptomycin was the first chemotherapeutic medicine found to be effective for tuberculosis.

Natural Products Screening Program – Following the success of the Waksman collaboration, Merck invested in a natural products screening program that ultimately led to the identification of several new antibiotic medicines. These capabilities, based mainly in Rahway, enabled Merck researchers to culture organisms sampled from sites all over the world which were then evaluated for antimicrobial activity.  In the 1970s, following a fifteen-year effort, Merck’s screening procedure resulted in the discovery of Mefoxin® (cefoxitin). Mefoxin was an important new addition to the physician’s armamentarium due to the increasing incidence of antimicrobial resistance. Unlike cephalosporins that were originally discovered in fungi, Mefoxin® (cefoxitin) was interestingly derived from cephamycin C, which is produced by Streptomyces lactamdurans. At the time, it was recognized as a major advance over clinically available beta-lactam antibiotics.

Carbapenem Class Of Antibiotics – Primaxin® (imipenem/cilastatin) is the first member of the carbapenem class of antibiotics, which continues to be prescribed extensively in the U.S. and across the world. Carbapenems were an important discovery, as they are generally less susceptible to common mechanisms of antibiotic resistance than other beta-lactam molecules.  The development of Primaxin® even today is considered one of the most arduous research efforts in Merck’s history to date. Screening of bacterial cultures identified a molecule, thienamycin, that had potent antibiotic properties. Unfortunately thienomycin was highly unstable. In 1974, the research teams at Rahway produced a sample pure enough to be chemically analyzed. This allowed the company’s chemists to develop and synthesize a stable derivative with similar antibiotic properties known as imipenem.  Further experiments found that imipenem activity could be improved if it was administered with the dehydropeptidase inhibitor, cilastatin.  The commercial manufacturing process for imipenem involved 16 defined steps at four locations, finishing in Rahway. The process was the first in Merck’s history and the most complex total chemical synthesis the industry had known.  

River Blindness / Nobel Prize – Mectizan® (ivermectin): Research, performed predominantly in Rahway, led to the discovery and development of Mectizan® (ivermectin) for the treatment of onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness). River blindness is a parasitic infection by a parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus that can cause intense itching, skin discoloration, rashes, and eye disease that can lead to permanent blindness. It is spread by the bites of infected black flies that breed in rapidly flowing rivers in the affected countries.  The development of ivermectin coupled with Merck’s commitment to donate it worldwide (over 1 billion people treated to date), has led to the elimination of river blindness in several countries and significantly reduced the prevalence of this affliction worldwide by breaking the lifecycle of the causative parasite.

William C. Campbell, a retired Merck scientist who worked in Rahway, shared the 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of avermectin, which led to the development of Mectizan® (ivermectin).  

Treatment for Fungal Infections – Cancidas® (caspofungin acetate): A 15-year process led Merck scientists to develop the first in class echinocandin antifungal agent, Cancidas® (caspofungin).  Caspofungin is a semisynthetic derivative of pneumocandin B0, a naturally occurring molecule isolated from the fungus Glarea lozoyensis.  Caspofungin is used today to treat opportunistic fungal infections of the genera Candida, Aspergillus, and Cryptococcus, particularly in patients who are immunocompromised.  This medicine provided an important new option for patients, and by 2006, caspofungin had become the number one intravenous antifungal medicine worldwide.


Vaccines – Merck’s West Point facility has been the location for pioneering work leading to the development of prophylactic vaccines for the protection of measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and Human Papilloma Virus.  In 1956, Maurice R. Hilleman became the director of virus and cell biology research at the Merck Institute, West Point, Pennsylvania. During his tenure, Hilleman and his team developed vaccines to prevent measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza bacteria and rubella. Notably, he cultivated mumps from a swab taken from his own daughter’s throat, using the culture as the basis of what became known as the Jeryl Lynn strain vaccine.  Hilleman also succeeded in isolating and culturing other viruses, including the hepatitis A vaccine in culture. Additionally, Hilleman and his team developed a vaccine for hepatitis B by treating blood serum with pepsin, urea and formaldehyde; however, there were concerns about the purity of this vaccine during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. To address these concerns, Hilleman and his team developed an alternate hepatitis B vaccine using recombinant DNA technology. This was the first recombinant vaccine to be approved for widespread use. Today, Hilleman is recognized as one of the most influential contributors to modern day vaccinology.



Ocean Station ALOHA, University of Hawai'i at Manoa


L-R) Alexander Shor, Associate Dean for Research, UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology; Tim Donohue, ASM Past President; Rita Colwell, ASM Past President; David Karl, Co-Founder of the HOT program that established Ocean Station ALOHA, and Co-Founder and Co-Director of C-MORE and SCOPE; Matthew Church, Professor and Senior Researcher, C-MORE and current lead PI of the HOT program; Doug Eveleigh, Chair of Milestones in Microbiology; Ed Delong, Co-Director and Co-Founder of C-MORE and SCOPE with the Milestones Plaque

To view videos of the Milestones ceremony and Pavel Lecture Held prior to the ceremony, go to

To access a 30-minute video (produced by Jay Fidell of “Think Tech Hawai’i”) featuring event highlights and interviews go to

Milestones Recognition

The American Society for Microbiology announces its designation of the Ocean Station ALOHA, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa as a Milestones in Microbiology site. The Milestones in Microbiology designation is made in recognition of the historic and visionary contributions of Ocean Station ALOHA to the science of microbial oceanography.   


Milestones Site Dedication Ceremony

The plaque that will mark the site as a Milestone in Microbiology was unveiled on November 17, 2015, in a ceremony held in conjunction with the inaugural lecture in the “Waypoints in Microbial Oceanography” Distinguished Lecturer Series.  The Pavel lecture, “Climate, Oceans, and Human Health: The Cholera Chronicle,” was presented by Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation and former ASM president, who commented, “Ocean science can no longer be viewed as an esoteric, ‘offshore’ discipline.  It is mainland and mainstream. The health and bounty of our oceans are an issue of planetary survival.”

The Milestones plaque was presented by Tim Donohue, ASM past president, to Alexander Shor, Associate Dean for Research, UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, David Karl, Co-Founder of the HOT program that established Ocean Station ALOHA, and Co-Founder and Co-Director of C-MORE and SCOPE, Edward DeLong, Co-Director and Co-Founder of C-MORE and SCOPE, and Matthew Church, Professor and Senior Researcher, C-MORE and current lead PI of the HOT program.  “This open-ocean research station has played a key role in defining the discipline of microbial oceanography and educating the public about the vital role of marine microbes in global ecosystems,” said Donohue.  “It is my opinion that we are in a renaissance period for microbiology, a time where we are poised to gain new insight into the myriad of ways in which microbes impact the world that we inhabit and will pass on to future generations.  We can look to Ocean Station ALOHA for examples of how to explain the science that excites us and its potential to solve problems relevant to society today and in the future.” 

The Milestones event was well attended by faculty, students, ASM Hawai‘i Branch members, university leaders, including David Lassner, President of the University of Hawai‘i System and Donna Vuchinich, President and CEO of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, and ASM guests, including Doug Eveleigh, chair of Milestones, and John Meyers, Membership Services Director.  Other highlights of the Milestones celebration and Pavel Lecture were a seminar, “The Science of Ocean Station ALOHA” delivered by David Karl, Edward DeLong, and Matthew Church, a tour of C-More Hale, and a viewing of the award-winning film, “The Invisible Seas” which was produced in the 1970s by Rita Colwell.  


Milestones Plaque


First-Day Cover Issued by U.S. Postal Service in Honor of the Milestones Designation



Historical Background and Perspective

Ocean Station ALOHA (A Long-term Oligotrophic Habitat Assessment), the microbiological research site 100 km north of O'ahu, Hawai'i, has played a fundamental role in defining the discipline of microbial oceanography, developing a comprehensive understanding of the sea, and educating the public about the critical role of marine microbes in global ecosystems.  In light of the pioneering research conducted there over the past three decades,  Station ALOHA may be viewed as the “birthplace” of microbial oceanography. Important scientific breakthroughs, including the discovery of new microorganisms, new metabolic pathways, and new understanding of the environmental controls of microbial rates and processes at a site representative of the North Pacific Subtropical gyre – Earth’s largest biome – justify the recognition of Station ALOHA as an important proving ground in microbial ecology.

In the 1960s, the field of marine microbiology gained prominence as an important sub-discipline of microbiology, including systematic laboratory-based studies of the structure and physiology of marine bacteria, unicellular algae, and protozoa, with a focus on the metabolic effects of salt, temperature, pressure, and later on nutrient uptake kinetics and controls. These important – mostly pure culture – studies laid the foundation for subsequent investigations of the ecological role of microorganisms in the sea. Later that decade, culture-independent methods were devised to enumerate marine bacteria using epifluorescence microscopy, and the results documented much larger populations than had been reported using selective, plate count methodologies.  Furthermore, the use of radiolabeled organic substrates provided novel methods for the determination of heterotrophic bacterial community dynamics and growth. These methods contributed to a new era of quantitative marine microbial ecology, and to the eventual founding of microbial oceanography as a new approach to the study of microorganisms in marine ecosystems. While there is overlap in mission, the main difference between the sub-disciplines of marine microbiology and microbial oceanography is whether the focus of the study is the microbe itself or the roles and interactions of microbes within naturally occurring communities. This sometimes subtle distinction is analogous to the complementary sub-disciplines of marine biology and biological oceanography. It is possible to study marine microbiology anywhere in the world using pure culture isolates; microbial oceanography can only be done at sea – by analyzing the complex inter-relationships between and among microorganisms and their environment. In this way, studies at Station ALOHA can be viewed as the marine equivalent of an agricultural field station where observations of microorganisms can be made and experiments conducted.

While the new field of microbiological/microbial oceanography was emerging as an extension of marine microbiology, scientists at the University of Hawaii proposed a new program – the “Hawaii Ocean Experiment” – or HOE (hoe is a Hawaiian word meaning “to paddle” or “to work together”). This project was not initially funded, but it was later reconfigured as the Hawaii Ocean Timeseries (HOT) research program. When HOT was created in October 1988, Station ALOHA was selected as the deep ocean site that was representative of the vast North Pacific Subtropical Gyre – one of Earth’s largest biomes. It soon became a transdisciplinary collaboration among individuals who traditionally did not interact (microbiologists, physical scientists, oceanographers, mathematicians, and educators), and created unique opportunities for scientific discovery, knowledge transfer, and outreach to society at large. In 2006, the scope of the HOT program was enhanced with the creation of a new NSF-supported Science and Technology Center (STC), the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE). This multi-institutional collaboration was established to investigate the identities, roles, and impacts of microorganisms including their potential responses to global environmental variability and climate change. In addition to this important, basic research mission, C-MORE had an important education mission: to train a new breed of inter-disciplinary microbial oceanographers, to develop curricula at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and to increase the number of students and teachers engaged in quantitative sciences and engineering, focusing on underrepresented groups, especially Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. In July 2014, a third collaborative research program, Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE), was created to complement the objectives of HOT and C-MORE, and to specifically investigate microbially-mediated processes that govern the flow of matter and energy at Station ALOHA with a greater temporal and spatial resolution.

When the HOT program began, momentum was building towards the development of a new, quantitative understanding of marine microbial assemblages, their control of biogeochemical cycles, and the sensitivities of microbially-mediated processes to climate change. The fundamental underpinning of this pioneering research effort was to determine environmental (physical and chemical) influences on the abundance, diversity, structure, and population dynamics of the dominant life forms in the sea – microorganisms. Long-term, time-series studies such as those conducted at Station ALOHA are ideally suited for investigating subtle habitat change, irregularly spaced stochastic forcing events, and complex interdependent ecological phenomena that affect microbial biogeochemical processes in nature. Because most naturally occurring microbes were not in pure culture at that time (and many still are not), taxonomic identities, evolutionary histories, and metabolic characteristics and controls were lacking. The key role(s) of viruses and the ubiquity of fundamental microbe-microbe interactions were largely unexplored.  For example, the three major groups of microorganisms that are now known to be numerically dominant members of the Station ALOHA ecosystem (and other open ocean ecosystems) were not even known at the beginning of the study. These microorganisms include: (1) Prochlorococcus spp., a novel oxygenic cyanobacterium which is now recognized as the most abundant photolithoautotroph on the planet. Prochlorococcus was first identified by its unique pigment-based flow cytometric signature (red fluorescence at 660-700 nm when excited by blue light at 488 nm). Prochlorococcus has unique pigmentation and a streamlined genome and exhibits enormous phenotypic and physiological variability, believed to be a result of genetic microadaptation; (2) SAR11 clade of alphaproteobacteria, the most abundant chemoorganoheterotrophic bacterium in the sea, first identified by 16S rRNA shotgun gene cloning and sequencing. SAR11 also has a streamlined genome and exhibits extensive ecotypic differentiation among related lineages; and (3) planktonic archaea, previously thought to be relegated to “extreme” (high temperature, low oxygen, high salt) environments, also discovered by rRNA sequence analysis. In addition to these numerically-abundant novel microorganisms, research conducted at Station ALOHA has discovered several unicellular, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterial groups, one of which exhibits a unique mutualistic, symbiotic association with a eukaryotic alga. Furthermore, research conducted at Station ALOHA has discovered, or contributed to the understanding of, several metabolic pathways, including proteorhodopsin-based phototrophy via a novel light-driven proton pump and the aerobic production of methane via methylphosphonate metabolism. 

Research at Station ALOHA is ongoing. 


Scientists Behind the Contributions

The importance of field research conducted at this site, and its relevance to the discipline of microbial oceanography has attracted a very large contingent of outstanding microbiologists who have worked collaboratively for a common purpose. Many distinguished microbiologists have already contributed significantly to the Station ALOHA research portfolio as members of the HOT, C-MORE, or SCOPE research teams: 

Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm - American Academy for Microbiology fellow Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm, the discoverer of Prochlorococcus, has been a major contributor in all three programs and a co-PI of the C-MORE program. Penny is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Medal of Science by President Barack Obama. She has also received numerous awards, based partly on her work at Station ALOHA, including the Alexander Agassiz Medal (National Academy of Sciences) and the A. G. Huntsman Medal (Royal Society of Canada).

Edward F. DeLong - Professor Edward F. DeLong, also an American Academy for Microbiology Fellow and member of the National Academy of Sciences, is co-founder and co-Director of the C-MORE and SCOPE programs. Ed has received numerous international awards including the prestigious A. G. Huntsman Medal (Royal Society of Canada), the DuPont Award in Applied and Environmental Microbiology from the American Society for Microbiology, and the ASM’s David C. White award for outstanding mentoring. DeLong also served on the American Academy for Microbiology Board of Governors.

David Karl - David Karl is the co-founder of the HOT program that established Station ALOHA, and co-founder and co-Director of C-MORE and SCOPE (both with DeLong). He is also a Fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology and member of the National Academy of Sciences. He has received numerous awards for his research at Station ALOHA including the Alexander Agassiz Medal (National Academy of Sciences) and the A. G. Huntsman Medal (Royal Society of Canada), and is the 2015 recipient of the ASM’s DuPont Award in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Others - In addition to Chisholm, DeLong, and Karl, other American Academy for Microbiology Fellows involved in the C-MORE/SCOPE efforts at Station ALOHA include John Waterbury, Mick Follows, Jonathan Zehr, and Virginia Armbrust.



Department of Microbiology and Immunology of the University of Michigan

Faculty UMICH Department of Microbiology and Immunology, October 22, 2015, with Milestones Plaque  


Click Here to Access This Week in Microbiology (TWiM) Podcast Held in Association with the Milestones in Microbiology Designation (10/22/15)

Click Here to Access This Week in Virology (TWiV) Podcast Held in Association with the Milestones Designation (10/23/15)

Click Here to Access This Week in Virology (TWiV) Podcast Held Following up on the Milestones Designation (focus on Frederick Novy's return from retirement to recover a lost rat virus...) (10/30/15)


Milestones Recognition

The American Society for Microbiology designates The University of Michigan Department of Microbiology and Immunology as a Milestones in Microbiology site. The Milestones in Microbiology designation is made in recognition of the long and productive history of significant contributions to the advancement of microbiology by University of Michigan microbial scientists. 


Milestones Site Dedication Ceremony

The plaque that will mark the site as a Milestone in Microbiology was unveiled on October 22, 2015, in a ceremony held in conjunction with the annual Neidhardt-Freter Symposium on Microbial Physiology and Pathogenesis.   Moselio Schaechter, Past President of ASM, presented the plaque on behalf of ASM.  Marck Schlissel, President, University of Michigan, and Harry Mobley, Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, accepted the plaque on behalf of the University and Department.  Prior to the presentation of the plaque, Powel Kazanjian, MD, PhD, University of Michigan gave a presentation, "Frederick Novy: Beginnings of Bacteriology in American Medicine 1889-1933


Milestones Plaque


Historical Background and Perspective

Novy (1864-1957): 

Microbiology at the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) has a rich history, tracing its roots back to the appointment of Dr. Frederick G. Novy as assistant professor of Hygiene and Physiological Chemistry in 1891. Prior to his appointment, Novy, along with medical pioneer and UMMS Dean Dr. Victor C. Vaughan, traveled to the laboratory of Dr. Robert Koch in 1889 for formal training by Koch’s close associate, Karl Fraenkel. Upon returning, Novy offered a three-month intensive course, Practical Bacteriology, which is credited as being the one of the earliest lecture-lab courses in the United States. The following year, Novy’s class was made a required part of the medical school curriculum, making UMMS one of the first medical schools to require formal training in microbiology.

Novy and Vaughan also traveled to Paris to study at the Pasteur Institute, where Novy worked with and became close friends with Emile Roux. Among his other notable achievements, Novy was selected in 1901 by U.S Surgeon General Dr. Walter Wyman to serve as a member of a commission investigating whether or not there was plague in San Francisco. With Simon Flexner of the University of Pennsylvania and Llwellys Barker of the University of Chicago, he confirmed an earlier controversial finding of plague within the city. By 1902, Novy was a Professor in the newly established Department of Bacteriology at the University of Michigan.

After returning from Koch’s lab, Dr. Novy focused his early research on “ptomaines”, the toxic products of bacteria. Eventually, his research at Michigan covered a wide range of topics, which included developing the earliest method for culturing trypanosomes, performing studies on the causative agent of syphilis, and studying microbial metabolism, with a particular emphasis on gas exchange.  Finally, he examined the chemistry of immune reactions, seeking to understand how substances from trypanosomes cause anaphylaxis. For his enormous number of contributions, Novy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1924. His own range of research areas set the pattern for the future of the department now known as the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, where research into microbial physiology and genetics, pathogenicity and immunity continues today.


Other University of Michigan Scientists and Their Contributions

Victor C. Vaughan (1851-1929) - Vaughan, Professor of Hygiene and Physiological Chemistry and Director of the Hygiene Laboratory, applied biochemical methods to identify putrefactive bacteria in food products, leading to significantly reduced incidence of "ptomaine poisoning" in Michigan and beyond. In 1898 he served on Walter Reed’s Typhoid Commission, which investigated typhoid fever in U.S. military camps during the Spanish-American War.

A. C. Furstenburg (1890-1969) and W. J. Nungester - Students of Novy went on to careers in microbiology that extended his legacy further. Included among these are A.C. Furstenburg, who later became Dean of the University of Michigan Medical School, and W.J. Nungester, who became Chair of Microbiology at Michigan. 

Paul De Kruif (1890-1971) - One of Novy's most consequential students at Michigan was Paul De Kruif, who wrote the seminal work Microbe Hunters, exploring the lives and contributions of 11 giants in the field of microbiology. This book influenced many young people from later generations to enter the fields of science and medicine.  De Kruif was introduced to the Nobel Prize winning author Sinclair Lewis by the critic H. L. Mencken and Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.  De Kruif and Lewis became close collaborators on the book, Arrowsmith, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928. The book is about an idealistic physician-scientist, Martin Arrowsmith, who is working on a method to use phage to combat bubonic plague. Lewis credited De Kruif - drawing from his experiences - with providing the inspiration for nearly all of the medical institutions, physicians, and scientists in the novel. In particular, the character of Dr. Max Gottlieb, who instilled in Arrowsmith a love and dedication for the scientific process, was largely based on Novy.

Thomas Francis Jr. (1900-1969) - Dr. Francis, an influenza virologist, founded the Department of Epidemiology in our School of Public Health (SPH) at Michigan, where he mentored Jonas Salk on vaccine development. Francis led the national field trials of the Salk polio vaccine, which provided the first real hope against this dreaded disease. Francis won the Lasker Award in 1946, the Medal of Freedom in 1947 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1948.

Frederick Neidhardt (1931-  ) - Neidhardt studied bacterial physiology and was among the earliest investigators to apply powerful systems-based approaches to understand physiological responses of the cell to specific environmental stresses. Professor Neidhardt received the Eli Lilly Award from ASM in 1966, and served as ASM President in 1982. He served the field as an author and educator as well, writing or co-writing two successful textbooks, The Physiology of the Bacterial Cell: A Molecular Approach and Microbe, the latter published by ASM Press as one of its early forays into textbook publishing. With ASM Press, Professor Neidhardt also conceived and edited the landmark epic Escherichia Coli and Salmonella Typhimurium: Vols 1-2: Cellular and Molecular Biology, which came to be known as the "Coli Bible" soon after its publication in 1987.

Rolf Freter (1926-2009) - Freter was a prominent and innovative researcher who studied complex relationships between the gut microbiome, gastrointestinal pathogens and the mucosal immune system. His work on these areas in the 60s, 70s and 80s was visionary, given the remarkable upsurge in interest in these topics in the past 10 years.


UMICH Relationship with American Society for Microbiology

ASM Leadership:

Novy was a Charter Member of the Society of American Bacteriologists (SAB) in 1899 (the SAB changed its name to the American Society for Microbiology in 1960). He served as the fifth president of the Society (1904), served on Council in 1905 and 1907, and in 1937 was elected an Honorary Member, a distinction conferred on only 19 individuals in the first 50 years of the Society's history.

Extending this legacy of leadership in the field, two other distinguished investigators from University of Michigan have also served as President of the Society: Thomas Francis Jr. (1947) and Frederick C. Neidhardt (1982). 
ASM Headquarters:

In 1959 the Society hired Raymond W. Sarber as Executive Secretary. Sarber was Councilor of the Michigan Branch of the SAB while working at Parke-Davis (headquartered in Detroit). Sarber established an office for the Society, which was to become the first headquarters operation, in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Woods. In 1962, the Society
(which by then was the American Society for Microbiology) moved the headquarters operation to an office building near the University of Michigan campus at 115 Huron View Boulevard.    



University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


(L-R) John E. Cronan, UIUC Microbiology Alumni Professor and Head of Microbiology; Professor of Biochemistry, and Stanley Maloy, Past President, ASM, and Past Faculty Member UIUC Department of Microbiology with the Milestones Plaque


Milestones Recognition

The American Society for Microbiology announces its designation of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Milestones in Microbiology site. The Milestones in Microbiology designation is made in recognition of the rich history of major microbiological achievements at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and the many outstanding UIUC microbiologists who have made seminal discoveries that significantly increased biological understanding and advanced the field of microbiology.  

Milestones Site Dedication Ceremony

The plaque that will mark the site as a Milestone in Microbiology was unveiled on October 16, 2015, in a ceremony held in conjunction with the University's Annual Microbiology Conference.  Stanley Maloy, Past President of ASM and Former Faculty Member of the UIUC Department of Microbiology presented the plaque on behalf of ASM.  John E. Cronan, UIUC Microbiology Alumni Professor and Head of Microbiology, and Edward Feser, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts accepted the plaque on behalf of the University.


Milestones Plaque


Historical Background and Perspective

The Milestones designation specifically cites the contributions of the following UIUC scientists:

Thomas J. Burrill (1839 – 1916)

  • Discovered bacterial causes of plant diseases, founding the science of bacterial plant pathology
  • Identified Erwinia amylovora as the causal agent of fire blight in pear and apple trees
  • In 1891, established one of the earliest bacteriology courses in the United States

Sol Spiegelman (1914 – 1983)

  • Pioneered the study of RNA and mechanisms of viral replication
  • Pioneered the separation of RNA by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis
  • Developed nucleic acid hybridization technology to detect specific sequences, a basic tool of molecular biology
  • Solved the mystery of the origin of ribosomal RNA
  • Discovered self-reproducing RNA structures

Salvador E. Luria (1912 – 1991)

  • Pioneered the study of bacterial virus-mediated transfer of DNA
  • First observed genetically the phenomenon of microbial DNA restriction and modification
  • Awarded Nobel Prize with Max Delbrück and Alfred Hershey in 1969 for their discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and genetic structure of viruses

Marvin P. Bryant (1925 – 2000)

  • Pioneered the study of rumen microbes and their roles in cellulose fermentation
  • Isolated methanogens from the rumen and defined media for their cultivation
  • Pioneered the study of microbial anaerobic degradation of ligno-aromatic ring structures

Irwin C. ”Gunny” Gunsalus (1912 – 2008)

  • Pioneered studies in microbial biochemistry
  • Discovered lipoic acid and worked out its role as a coenzyme
  • Defined the structure of vitamin B6
  • Developed a genetic system to study Pseudomonas
  • Charted the microbial metabolic breakdown of steroid-like terpenes
  • Discovered the first microbial cytochrome P450 system

Carl R. Woese (1928 – 2012)

  • Revolutionized understanding of life on Earth by pioneering the use of 16S ribosomal RNA sequences as a basis for studying microbial evolution and ecology
  • In 1977, discovered the Archaea, a new Domain of Life distinct from Bacteria and Eukarya
  • Awarded the Leeuwenhoek Medal in 1992, the National Medal of Science in 2000, and the Crafoord Prize in 2003 

Abigail A. Salyers (1942 – 2013)

  • Pioneered studies of Bacteroides polysaccharide utilization and its role in colonic fermentation
  • Developed genetic tools for studying Bacteroides, including metabolism, mobilizable elements, and antibiotic resistance
  • First female tenured professor in Microbiology at UIUC in 1983 and full professor in 1988

Ralph S. Wolfe (1921 – )

  • Pioneered studies of the microbial biochemistry of methanogenesis
  • Developed the first archaeal cell-free extract for methane formation
  • Identified ferredoxin and six new coenzymes of methanogenesis
  • Isolated and characterized the first Acetobacterium
  • Leading role in establishing and developing the Woods Hole Microbial Ecology Course

UIUC Relationship with American Society for Microbiology

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has had a close relationship with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) (formerly SAB - Society of American Bacteriologists) throughout its history. 

As of 2015, six UIUC Scientists have served as ASM (or SAB) Presidents:

Served as President of the Society while at UIUC:

  • Thomas J. Burrill (1916)
  • H. Orin Halvorson (1955)
  • Abigail A. Salyers (2002)

Served as President of the Society after they left UIUC:

  • Salvador E. Luria (1968)
  • L. Leon Campbell (1974)
  • Stanley R. Maloy (2006)   

The first ASM journal, Journal of Bacteriology, and the establishment of local Branches were first proposed at the 1915 SAB Meeting hosted by the University in Urbana, Illinois.  The first volume of Journal of Bacteriology was subsequently published in 1916.  The Bacteriology Club at Urbana became the first local Branch of SAB (1917).  



The Rockefeller University



Site Dedication Ceremony

The American Society for Microbiology announced its designation of the Rockefeller University as a Milestones in Microbiology site

The formal site dedication took place as follows:

Date:  Wednesday, April 8, 2015, at 12 Noon

Place:  The Cohn Library, The Rockefeller University 


  • Remarks by Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Rockefeller University President
  • Overview of Milestones Program and Introduction of ASM President by Doug Eveleigh, Chair of Milestones in Microbiology
  • Plaque Presentation by Stanley Maloy, Past President of the ASM
  • Lecture by James Darnell, Vincent Astor Professor Emeritus:  “Rockefeller University’s Early Role in Microbiology”
  • Lecture by Emil Gotschlich, R. Gwin Follis-Chevron Professor Emeritus:  “History of Meningitis Research at Rockefeller."
  • Walking tour conducted by University historian Carol Moberg: Site for “Milestones” plaque (Collaborative Research Center) and Rockefeller University historical laboratory (Flexner Hall)

Plaque Presentation

  • Stanley Maloy, Past President of the ASM, presented the official Milestones in Microbiology plaque on behalf of the Society.      
  • Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Rockefeller University President, accepted the plaque on behalf of the University


Rationale for the Milestones Designation

The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now known as Rockefeller University), founded in 1901, was the first institute in the U.S. entirely devoted to using biomedical science to understand the underlying cause of disease.  Its initial focus on infectious disease and its continued leadership in fields such as bacteriology, virology, parasitology, immunology, and genetics have led to numerous contributions to the microbiological sciences.

The ASM Milestones designation is made in recognition of the many outstanding achievements of Rockefeller scientists, and in particular for the following ground-breaking discoveries:

  • The 1944 discovery by Oswald T. Avery, Colin M. MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty that DNA from one pneumococcal type can transform cells of a different type, a finding that pointed to DNA as the molecule of heredity.
  • Peyton Rous’ formulation of the viral theory of cancer causation after his 1910 discovery that a virus in a chicken sarcoma could cause the same tumor type in inoculated healthy animals, a theory that was proven correct nearly a half century after he proposed it.
  • The development by Emil C. Gotschlich of purified capsular polysaccharide vaccines against groups C and A meningococcal bacteria, which have prevented meningitis in infants, children, and American military recruits since 1970.


Milestones Plaque


Press Release Announcing Milestones Designation

Visit to the “Flexner Lab”

After the Milestones ceremony, Carol Moberg led a tour to the “Flexner Lab,” a historic lab that has been transformed into a small museum housing artifacts from Rockefeller University's past and serving as a venue for special exhibits relating to Rockefeller University history.  The lab contains fixtures and other items dating to the early 20thCentury.  Among the artifacts on display are glassware created in the university’s glassblowing shop (the university also had a woodworking shop and machine shop where scientists worked with master craftsmen to create tools to solve problems), benches, fume hoods, air and gas nozzles, and heavy stone bench tops that are twice as thick as modern ones.  Of special note are several glass perfusion pumps (1930s) invented by Rockefeller’s Alexis Carrel and aviator Charles Lindbergh.  The pumps were used in animal experiments to keep whole organs alive outside the body, and were the precursors of the heart-lung machines used in open heart surgery beginning in the 1940s.  Lindbergh’s interest and involvement in this invention stemmed from his personal experience:  his sister- in-law had heart problems that were untreatable because technology at the time did not allow for organs to be removed and preserved during surgery. 

A special exhibit commemorating the Milestones designation was on display in the lab, featuring photographs related to the accomplishments and scientists cited on the plaque.  Also displayed were photos and documents relating to the four Rockefeller scientists who have served as ASM president: 

ASM Presidents

1936 – Thomas Milton Rivers (1888-1962) 

1941 – Oswald Theodore Avery (1877-1955)

1943 – Rebecca Craighill Lancefield (1895-1981)

1952 – René Jules Dubos  (1901-1976)


Several reprints addressing Rockefeller history were available to visitors.  Copies were obtained for the ASM Archives:  

  • James B. Murphy’s Laboratory

 More About The Rockefeller University

The Rockefeller University is one of the world’s foremost biomedical research institutes and is dedicated to conducting innovative, high-quality research to improve the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity.

Founded in 1901, The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was the country’s first institution devoted exclusively to biomedical research. In the 1950s, the Institute expanded its mission to include graduate education and began training new generations of scientists to become research leaders around the world. In 1965, it was renamed The Rockefeller University. Its more than 70 laboratories conduct biological and biomedical research and a community of over 2,000 faculty, students, postdocs, technicians, clinicians and administrative personnel work at the University’s 14-acre campus.

Rockefeller’s unique approach to science has led to some of the world’s most revolutionary contributions to biology and medicine. During Rockefeller’s history, 24 of its scientists have won Nobel Prizes, 21 have won Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards and 20 have garnered the National Medal of Science, the highest science award given by the United States.

For more information, go to




University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology


(L-R - Michele Swanson, Host of This Week in Microbiology (TWiM) Milestones podcast, Tim Donohue, ASM President, Katrina Forest (holding Milestones plaque), UW-Bacteriology Professor, Rick Gourse, UW-Bacteriology Chair, Tom Brock, UW-Bacteriology Emeritus Professor


Click Here to Access This Week in Microbiology (TWiM) Podcast Held in Association with the Milestones in Microbiology Designation


Milestones Recognition

The American Society for Microbiology designates the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Bacteriology as a Milestones in Microbiology site. The Milestones designation of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology is made in recognition of the Department’s consistent history of outstanding cutting-edge research over the past 100 years, and the continuing benefits to fundamental and applied sciences, to industry, to government and to society as a whole from the research performed in the Department.


Milestones Site Dedication Ceremony

A ceremony unveiling the plaque that will mark the site as a Milestone in Microbiology was held on Saturday, August 30, 2014, in a ceremony held during the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology’s Centennial Celebration.  ASM President Timothy Donohue presented the plaque on behalf of ASM.


Milestones Plaque



This Week in Microbiology (TWiM) Podcast

Michele Swanson, University of Michigan Ann Arbor and co-host of This Week in Microbiology (TWiM), hosted an on-site TWiM podcast featuring UW-Bacteriology panelists Tom Brock, Tim Donohue, Katrina Forest and Rick Gourse, who discussed the history of UW-Bacteriology as well as current research in the Department and in the associated Great Lakes Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, with an emphasis on the diversity of microbiological studies included in the Department.  Click Here to Access TWiM Podcast  


Historical Background and Perspective

The Department of Bacteriology at UW-Madison (UW-Bacteriology) has a rich history. Its current and past research covers the breadth of microbiology, and has resulted in many important discoveries during the past 100 years.  

UW-Bacteriology was officially formed in 1914, though even before then (beginning in the late 1800’s), considerable activity in bacteriological studies occurred at UW-Madison. Instruction in bacteriology has been continuous since 1885, probably representing a longer period than any other American university. Over the years, the Department has expanded to study diverse facets of microbiology, while proudly retaining the name “Department of Bacteriology.”

UW-Bacteriology was an early leader in the development of agricultural and environmental bacteriology, fields which later formed the basis for the studies of microbial physiology and genetics. The Department is also a leader in fundamental and applied disciplines of microbiology. Its traditions of association with industry and the development of important areas of biotechnology have been present from the outset and continue to this day.

Early Research and Development of Courses of Instruction:

In the late 1800’s, several innovators were integrally involved in the development of courses and early research programs at UW-Madison. In 1881, William Trelease, then of the Department of Biology, introduced the discussion of bacteria into his course in Botany. The work of Pasteur, Tyndall, Koch, and Cohn was presented. In 1877-78, the first science laboratories at the University of Wisconsin were developed by Edward Birge. He studied in what is now Birge Hall which houses the Department of Botany. Later, while serving as President of UW-Madison, Birge developed the first formal courses in bacteriology. His first student to enter the field of bacteriology was Harry Luman Russell, who later became the Dean of the Wisconsin College of Agriculture.

Animal Health:

Initial research in the Department was devoted to animal health, including the detection and treatment of Johne’s disease in cattle, the relation between avian, porcine, and bovine tuberculosis, and infectious diseases of foxes and other fur-bearing animals. Wisconsin was the first of the dairy states to eradicate bovine tuberculosis from its herds.

Dairy Studies and Commercial Canning:

The study of dairying, including pasteurization of milk, starter cultures, and cheese manufacture, was introduced on the campus in the late 1800s as it became apparent that Wisconsin was to be a center of the dairy industry. Extensive research was carried out on techniques needed for commercial canning, and in 1898, benefitting from the knowledge gained through Departmental research, two factories in Wisconsin produced the largest pea pack in the world. In 1889, Harry Russell resolved a canning spoilage problem, and during World War II, the Department developed a protocol for sterilization in glass bottles, metal being reserved for the war effort.

Plant Pathology:

Microbiological studies in plant pathology focusing on disease resistance to cereal seedling blight, fire blight, crown gall, and virus diseases of potato and tobacco were also undertaken in the early years. Due to the need for this kind of expertise, the early instructors in the Department of Bacteriology were often botanists in training.

Soil Bacteriology:

The importance of soil bacteriology was developed under the direction of Conrad Hoffman and later under the direction of Edwin B. Fred, who joined the staff of the College of Agriculture in 1913. Researchers in bacteriology prepared and distributed cultures for inoculation of legumes, and this research area was furthered by Fred. Work on nitrogen fixation continued in Bacteriology throughout the 20th Century, not only with Fred, but also with Ira Baldwin, Elizabeth McCoy, Winston Brill, and Gary Roberts, as well as in Biochemistry with Robert Burris and Paul Ludden.


Throughout its history, UW-Bacteriology has maintained strong working relationships with Wisconsin industry, and cooperation between the Department and industries such as the large breweries of Milwaukee and smaller craft breweries scattered throughout the state has been the norm. Working first at Indiana University and later at UW-Madison, Thomas Brock made fundamental contributions to the development of the biotechnology industry through his work with thermophiles and the discovery of Taq polymerase.

Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics and Molecular Biology:

In the last 25 years of the 20th Century, the Department began to focus on prokaryotic molecular genetics and molecular biology, with faculty members, including Carol Gross, contributing greatly to the development of the field. The Department continues to focus on fundamental mechanisms in prokaryotic biology to this day, but as it enters the 21st Century, the advent of microbial genomics, as well as the explosion of DNA sequence information and high throughput data analysis, has ushered the Department into yet another new research arena. Identification of new antibiotics and their targets, as well as study of the animal microbiome and its host interactions continue to progress.      

Training Future Scientific Leaders:

Throughout its 100-year history, the Department has successfully trained thousands of students for undergraduate and graduate degrees, preparing them to be scientific leaders in the field.  Thomas Brock’s “Biology of Microorganisms” became a classic international teaching text. The appointment of a faculty member principally to teach is rare in large research universities, and in this role, Kenneth Todar and John Lindquist nationally excelled.

Relationship with American Society for Microbiology:

UW-Bacteriology has had a close relationship with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) throughout its history. Several UW Scientists have served as ASM Presidents to date:

  • Harry Luman Russell (1908)
  • Edwin George Hastings (1923)
  • Edwin Broun Fred (1932)
  • Paul Franklin Clark (1938)
  • Ira Lawrence Baldwin (1944)
  • Perry William Wilson (1957)
  • William Bowen Sarles (1967)
  • Edwin Michael Foster (1970)
  • Timothy Donohue (2015)


Nobel Prize Recognition in Physiology or Medicine

Scientists in disciplines throughout the University of Wisconsin-Madison have contributed to important discoveries, and several have earned Nobel Prize recognition for their work. These include:

  • Joshua Lederberg – Awarded Nobel Prize in 1958 for his “discoveries concerning genetic recombination and the organization of the genetic material of bacteria”
  • Howard Temin – Awarded Nobel Prize in 1975 for “discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell”
  • Har Gobind Khorana – Awarded Nobel Prize in 1967 for “interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis”



Listed below is a sampling of select landmark achievements at UW-BacteriologyFor more information on the history of the UW Department of Bacteriology and its accomplishments, visit:


Edward Birge in the Department of Botany develops the first science laboratories at the University of Wisconsin. His class subject matter includes training in fundamentals in microbiology.


William Trelease (Botany) teaches Bacteriology at UW. This is thought to be the first bacteriology course taught at any American university.


One of Edward Birge’s first students, Harry Luman Russell, becomes Dean of the College of Agriculture, later named the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), which continues today and hosts departments in life sciences at UW-Madison.


In 1894, Harry Russell demonstrates the presence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle herds in Wisconsin.  In 1895, he is instrumental in beginning the development of the Department of Bacteriology, the first of its kind in any American university.


Edwin G. Hastings is hired and he develops the concept of cheese starter cultures and ripening organisms. His efforts lead to vast improvements in the Wisconsin dairy industry.


Edwin B. Fred is hired in Bacteriology to study nitrogen fixation. In 1934, Fred becomes Dean of the Graduate School, and in 1943, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. In 1945, he becomes president of the University of Wisconsin, a position he holds until 1958.


The Department of Agricultural Bacteriology is founded. In 1947, the name is changed to Bacteriology.


Bacteriology faculty produce nitrogen-fixing inocula for Wisconsin farmers, helping increase yields of leguminous crops such as peas, soybeans and alfalfa.


Ira L. Baldwin is hired in Bacteriology and teaches the first course in bacterial physiology.  Baldwin later becomes chair of the department (1941-44), dean of the Graduate School (1944-45), dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (1945-48), and Vice President of UW Academic Affairs (1949-66).


Edwin Fred, Ira Baldwin and Elizabeth McCoy publish the definitive text on nitrogen fixation, “Root Nodule Bacteria and Leguminous Plants.”


Ira Baldwin serves as founding scientific director of the U.S. Army facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland, overseeing the building of the facility and the recruitment of scores of scientists to conduct fundamental research on the potential of, and defenses against, biological warfare.

1940s – 50s

The discovery by Kenneth Raper and Mary Hunt (USDA, Peoria) of the high penicillin yielding strain Penicillium chrysogenum launches a new era of high level practical antibiotic production. UW-Bacteriology works with the USDA scientists, and major developments such as super high yielding mutant strains (Backus and Stauffer) and submerged fermentation techniques (Brown Peterson and Johnson) follow. Further contributions continue to flow from the laboratories of Raper (who came to UW in 1953), Robert Burris, David Perlman, Charles Siu and Jerry Ensign through the rest of the century.


Bibhuti DasGupta (Food Research Institute) and Hiroshi Sugiyama (Food Research Institute and Bacteriology) purify and characterize botulinum neurotoxin involved in the disease botulism.


The Department begins to focus on prokaryotic molecular genetics and molecular biology, resulting in diverse fundamental discoveries.


Winston Brill and Vinod Shah identify the metal cluster at the active site of nitrogenase. This discovery leads to enhanced understanding of nitrogen fixation and benefits agriculture.


Fun Sun Chu purifies and characterizes antibodies against a range of mycotoxins, contributing substantially to the detection of and control of mycotoxin contamination worldwide.


Botulinum toxin produced by Edward J. Schantz (Food Research Institute) and Eric A. Johnson (Food Research Institute, Bacteriology) is used in the first primate and human studies for the development of the therapeutic use of the toxin. In 1987, the technology is acquired by Allergan and named Botox®, and is now a multi-billion dollar drug.


Marsha Betley (Food Research Institute, Bacteriology) provides the first genetic characterization of staphylococcal enterotoxin genes, which contributes to the understanding of staphylococcal food poisoning.


T. Kent Kirk (U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, Bacteriology) is elected to the National Academy of Sciences for elucidation of the microbial degradation of lignin, important for biological pulping of wood, the understanding of the basis of wood rotting and the bioconversion of lignin wastes into useful products.


Bacteriology sees an impressive growth in the number of undergraduate majors as students are drawn to microbiology as a career. It is estimated that since its inception, the UW Department of Bacteriology has trained over 100,000 undergraduate and graduate students.


A gift from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin estate establishes the Wisconsin Idea Endowment, which helps fund community-service learning programs for students, and supports research projects focused on societal issues.


As part of the Wisconsin BioStar Initiative, the Microbial Sciences Building is completed, and faculty and staff of the Food Research Institute, Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, and Bacteriology move into the new building.


The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) is established with Timothy Donohue (Bacteriology) as the Director. GLBRC is developing technologies for the conversion of renewable terrestrial biomass for the production of fuels, fine chemicals, and other industrial products.


Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, Site of H W Conn Research Laboratory at Connecticut Agricultural College (now University of Connecticut Storrs)


Presentation of the Milestones Plaque (Pictured left to right) Dr. Alice Kahn (Conn Family), Dr. Bruce Cochrane (Conn Family), Dean Jeremy Teitelbaum (Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, UCONN), Dr. Mun Choi (Provost, UCONN), Milestones Plaque, Mrs. Berta Jo Bolick (Conn Family), Mr. Allen Bolick (Conn Family), Dr. Kenneth Noll (UCONN), Dr. James Poupard (ASM/CHOMA), Dr. Stanley Maloy (ASM Past President)


Milestones Site Dedication Ceremony

The American Society for Microbiology is pleased to announce its designation of The Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, Site of Herbert William Conn's Research Laboratory at the Connecticut Agricultural College (now the University of Connecticut, Storrs) as a Milestones in Microbiology site.

A ceremony unveiling the plaque that will mark the site as a Milestone in Microbiology was held on Saturday, October 26, 2013, during the Region One ASM Branch Meeting, hosted by the Connecticut Valley Branch of ASM, at the University of Connecticut Storrs.  Stanley Maloy, ASM Past President, presented the plaque on behalf of ASM.

A symposium, “Herbert W. Conn’s Golden Age of Bacteriology becomes The New Golden Age of Microbial Biology,” was held in conjunction with the Milestones dedication ceremony. 


Milestones Plaque


Gubernatorial Proclamation

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy issued a Gubernatorial Proclamation in honor of H.W. Conn, and the Milestones designation of the University of Connecticut.  The Proclamation was read during the ceremony and formal copies were presented to descendants of Conn who attended the ceremony.

Historical Background of the Milestones Site 


The Milestones designation of the University of Connecticut (UCONN) recognizes the accomplishments of Herbert William Conn, one of the founders of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now the American Society for Microbiology or ASM).    

Conn’s major achievements include

  • Research in agricultural and dairy bacteriology carried out at the Storrs Agricultural Station
  • Establishment of Bacteriology as a separate academic discipline at the Connecticut Agricultural College
  • Leadership in public health microbiology
  • Effective communication of science to the public
  • Founding of the American Academy of Public Health
  • Founding of the Society of American Bacteriologists

The Milestones in Microbiology award recognizes the accomplishments of this remarkable microbiologist and the lasting impact his work has had in agricultural science, public health and education.

Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station and Beyond:

Herbert W. Conn’s international fame in dairy bacteriology began during his tenure as the bacteriologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station on the campus of the Storrs Agricultural School (1889-1905). Conn’s research on the formation of butter and milk spoilage led to advances in bacterial cultivation, physiological measurement techniques, and dairy product production.  His research at the Station served as the basis for the “Butter Exhibition” at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, which allowed the public to taste flavors of butters made using different bacteria.

Starting in 1892, Conn served as "Lecturer on Dairy Bacteriology" at the Connecticut Agricultural College and so established the first formal instruction in Bacteriology at what was to become the University of Connecticut. After Conn stepped down from his instructional duties at the College in 1906, his laboratory assistant and former student William Esten continued in Conn’s footsteps and became Professor of Dairy Bacteriology at the College.

Conn became a leading advocate for public health laws as a result of his work, and in 1905 was appointed Director of the new Connecticut State Board of Health Laboratory, one of the first such bodies in the United States. He founded the American Academy of Public Health and served on the New York Commission on Milk Standards. Conn was also an accomplished educator at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he founded the Biology Department and served as its head until his death in 1917.

Founding of SAB (now ASM):

While working at the Agricultural Station, Conn collaborated with Drs. A. C. Abbott (University of Pennsylvania) and E. O. Jordan (University of Chicago) to found the Society of American Bacteriologists (later ASM).  At the inaugural meeting of the Society held at Yale University in 1899, Conn presented research that reflected his achievements at the Station.  His presentation, “Natural Varieties of Bacteria,” included an exhibit of cultures of a highly variable Micrococcus which he had isolated from milk.

The General Public....and Mark Twain:

Not only did Conn write many important papers for professional scientific publications, but he also wrote and lectured extensively for the general public about microbes, evolution and public health. His popular 1897 book The Story of Germ Life inspired Mark Twain’s unfinished story, 3,000 Years Among the Microbes



Marine Biological Laboratory Microbial Diversity Course

Microbial Diversity Course Milestones Plaque Dedication June 22, 2013 

(Pictured L-R - Daniel Buckley (co-Course Director),  Colleen Cavanaugh (MBL Speaker of the Corporation), Mary Buckley, Jeffery Miller (ASM President), Bill Reznikoff (MBL Director of Education), Steve Zinder, (co-Course Director)


Milestones Ceremony

The American Society for Microbiology is pleased to announce its designation of the Microbial Diversity Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) as a Milestones in Microbiology Site.

A ceremony unveiling the plaque that will mark the site as a Milestone in Microbiology was held on Saturday, June 22, 2013, during the Microbial Diversity Course. Jeffery Miller, ASM President, presented the plaque on behalf of ASM.

MBL Microbial Diversity Course History

The Microbial Diversity Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole was initiated in 1971. Although there were and are several internationally known microbiologists at the MBL and its sister organization, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), there are four key scientists whose efforts resulted in the establishment and flourishing of this important course in the training of an excellent cadre of microbiologists who either studied in the course, taught in the course or both. The first was Holger Jannasch, truly a scientific grandfather for those interested in microbial ecology. Holger initiated the Microbial Diversity Course (then called Microbial Ecology Course) in 1971. He gathered an elite group of instructors and the course was an instant success.

The second and third key people who were vital to the success of the course were Selman Waksman and his son, Byron Waksman. Selman Waksman made foundational contributions to marine microbiology during summers at Woods Hole. He was also awarded a Nobel Prize for his work (at Rutgers) on the systematic search for antibiotics (leading to streptomycin, the royalties from which enabled him to establish the Foundation for Microbiology). At a critical time when the course might have ended due to lack of funding, Selman stepped forward to offer support from the Foundation for Microbiology, and then Byron Waksman worked to realize that offer after his father’s death.

The fourth key player was Harlyn Halvorson, who became the second course director in 1981. Harlyn had been introduced as a child to Woods Hole and the MBL by his father, H. Orin Halvorson, a noted microbiologist, and he had previously taught in the MBL Physiology Course. Harlyn continued the model set by Holger of collecting a group of internationally recognized microbiologists to be the course faculty, and he set the model for continued financial support of the course through a variety of granting agencies.

The faculty of the course has represented a "Who’s Who" of leading microbiologists; for instance, directors of the course included Ralph Wolfe, Pete Greenberg, Marty Dworkin, John Breznak, Ed Leadbetter, Abigail Salyers, Carrie Harwood, Alfred Spormann, Bill Metcalf and Tom Schmidt up to the current directors, Steve Zinder and Dan Buckley.


Milestones Plaque



Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory


CSHL Milestones Plaque Dedication Aug 24, 2012  (Pictured L-R - Stanley Maloy, James Watson, Waclaw Szybalski, Bruce Stillman)



The American Society for Microbiology is pleased to announce that it has designated Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) as a Milestones in Microbiology site.

Soon to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the Laboratory has long been on the cutting edge of biological research. Of special note for microbiologists are the contributions of the Phage Course in the mid-20th Century to the development of molecular biology, and the Symposia on Quantitative Biology which often focused on the newest developments in virology, mycology and bacteriology. Names associated with the Laboratory include Salvador Luria, Max Delbrück, James Watson, Al Hershey, Martha Chase and Barbara McClintock. 

A commemorative plaque was placed at the site on August 24, 2012, during the Bacterial, Archaea & Phages course.  Stanley Maloy, Chair, Microbe Editorial Board, and a past President of ASM, presented the plaque on behalf of the leadership of ASM to CSHL President Bruce Stillman. Also on hand were Nobel Laureate James Watson, who spoke during the presentation ceremony, and Waclaw Szybalski, who had participated in the “This Week in Microbiology” podcast filmed earlier in the day at CSHL.  


Milestones Plaque


School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Site of the Former Laboratory of Hygiene

Loeb Laboratory

Selman Waksman's Laboratory