Skip to Main Content

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

H. Orin Halvorson Papers


Dr. Halvorson (1897-1975) received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering (1921) and a Ch.E. degree (1922) from the University of Minnesota. He continued graduate work in Bacteriology at Minnesota, receiving the Ph.D. in 1928, and remaining as a member of the Bacteriology faculty until 1949, becoming Director of the Hormel Institute there in 1943. In 1949, Dr. Halvorson was appointed head of the Bacteriology Department at the University of Illinois, and when the School of Life Sciences opened there in 1959, he was its first Director. He retired in 1965, returning to Minnesota as a Research Professor. 

Dr. Halvorson's research interests were varied, including: application of statistical methods to microbiology; chemical and sanitary engineering; immunology; chemistry of soaps and antiseptics; virology (purification of poliovirus); and bacterial physiology.

Dr. Halvorson's service to ASM was extensive: he served as President of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now ASM) in 1955; was the first Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology (1955-58); and first Chairman of the American Board of Microbiology (1958-65). He also served on the Committee for Guidance in Training for Microbiology, conducting site visits and providing evaluations for the Microbiology programs at a number of universities. He was elected to Honorary Membership, the Society's highest honor, in 1969.

This collection is comprised of three series: miscellaneous personal papers; materials relating to the American Academy of Microbiology (including valuable material concerning the establishment of AAM); and materials relating to the SAB/ASM.

Two topics of particular interest are covered in Series 3. In 1953, the SAB Council accepted an invitation from the Texas Branch to hold the 1956 Annual Meeting in Houston. Shortly thereafter, concerns were raised about the possibility that African-American members of the Society would not be able to participate fully in the meetings due to local discrimination practices. The correspondence concerning this issue (Folders 5 and 10) offers interesting insights into the question of the proper role of a scientific society in regard to larger social questions.

The file (Folder 13) on the Presidential Address of 1955 is also of great interest. Dr. Halvorson's address, "The Hybrid Bacteriologist" (published in Bacteriological Reviews19:217-221) examined the typical academic background of practicing bacteriologists, as well as prescriptions for the proper training of future workers in the field. The research for this speech consisted of establishing a list of the thirty or so most eminent bacteriologists of the day and sending them a questionnaire asking at what point in their formal training they decided upon bacteriology; what their previous major and minor fields were; what background they had in chemistry, physics and mathematics; and what prescriptions they would offer for the proper training of future bacteriologists. Although the results of the survey are only summarized in the address, and none of the respondents mentioned by name, Dr. Halvorson kept the questionnaires. The varied backgrounds and recommendations offered by these men are of great interest. Respondents included C.B. van Niel, Robert Buchanan, Joshua Lederberg, Albert J. Kluyver and K.F. Meyer.

​ SERIES 1: PERSONAL PAPERS, 1953-1971 (chronological)

1. Biographical, bibliographical information; clippings. (See also bound reprints)

2. Information on location of other papers

3. Economics Laboratory, 1953-61

4. Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1955-64

5. Sabbatical Leave 1957-58

6. Larsen, Helge (Trondheim, Norway), 1957-62

7. Murrell, W.G., 1960-61

8. National Academy of Sciences: IUBS National Committee. Also, Advisory Panel on Biological and Chemical Defense. 1960-61

9. Miscellaneous Scientific Papers, 1960-61 (sewage; low-temperature microbiology)

10. Research Grant Application (sludge treatment), 1961-62

11. Irgens, Roar, 1962-64

12. Augsberg College Conference: Science, Technology and the Christian Faith, 1964

13. MS, reviewer comments: "Removal of Plant Nutrients by Means of Aerobic Stabilization of Sludge," 1964

14. Correspondence, Clippings re sludge treatment, 1964-65

15. Trips 1965-67. Includes site visits to Universities for Committee on Guidance for Graduate Training

16. Wolfe, J., 1967 (re Spore Group)

17. Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1971


1. SAB Committees on Teaching and Certification, 1953-55

2. SAB Committee of Twenty, 1955-56

3. AAM Charter and Bylaws

4. Civil Service Rating of Bacteriologists, 1956-57

5. Immunologists -- Dr. Ned Williams (ABM Committee on Certification of Public Health and Clinical Immunologists), 1960-61

6. American Academy of Microbiology, 1961-62

7. American Academy of Microbiology, 1963-64

8. American Board of Microbiology, 1963-65

9. Wallace, G.I. -- Miscellaneous correspondence, 1963-65

10. General Microbiology Certification Program, 1964

11. American Board of Microbiology, 1965

12. Committee on Guidance and Training in Microbiology, 1970-71


[As the majority of folders in this series cover the same years, the arrangement is alphabetical]

1. American Society for Microbiology (primarily Committee on Guidance for Training in Microbiology), 1963-66

2. Annual Meeting, Detroit, 1957

3. Birkeland, Jorgen (background material for Guidance Committee visit to Ohio State), 1964

4. Committee on Taxonomic Problems, 1955-56

5. Council Policy Committee, 1954-57

6. Difco Award, 1954-57

7. Eli Lilly Award, 1954-57

8. Ft. Detrick Advisory Committee (American Chemical Society), 1955-56

9. Ft. Detrick Advisory Committee (SAB), 1955-56

10. General File, 1954-56

11. Journal of Bacteriology and Bacteriological Reviews (includes some correspondence re HOH publications), 1954-58

12. National Charter for SAB, 1955

13. Presidential Address, "The Hybrid Bacteriologist," 1955. Includes survey forms from prominent bacteriologists regarding their early training and views of proper training for bacteriologists

14. Trips, 1966 (Foundation for Microbiology lecture)