Dates: b. 1866; 1890‑1892 in Europe; 1893 to Wisconsin; d. 1954
Locations: Fellowship in Biology, Dept. of Zoology, Univ. of Chicago (1892‑1893); Assist. Prof. of Bacteriology and Staff of the Agr. Experiment Station (1893); Chair, Bacteriology Dept. of College of Letters and Sciences (1893‑); Full Professor of Bacteriology and Bacteriologist, Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station (1897‑1907); Member, State Live Stock Sanitary Board; Dir. Hygienic Laboratory, Wisc. State Board of Health (1903‑1908); Dean, College of Agriculture, University of Wisconsin (1907‑1931); Dir. Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (1939‑)
Training: undergrad U. Wisc. 1888 under Birge; MA under Trelease and Birge; 2 years with Pasteur, Koch and in Naples; PhD at Hopkins 1892 under Welch
Fields: biology; plant pathology; veterinary; milk; food; water; soil
Publications: BS thesis on "Bacteria of Ice from Lake Mendota,"; PhD Thesis on "Bacteria and their Relation to Vegetable Tissue," Johns Hopkins Hospital Reports 3 (1893): 223‑263; first paper on "Preliminary Observations on the Bacteria of Ice from Lake Mendota," Medical News (1889); "The Bacterial Flora of the Atlantic Ocean in the Vicinity of Wood Hole, Mass: A Contribution to the Morphology and Physiology of Marine Bacteria," Botanical Gazette 18 (1893): 383‑447; "The Fixation of Free Nitrogen by Plants," Botanical Gazette 19 (1894): 284‑293; "The Infectiousness of Milk from Tuberculous Cows," 11th Annual Rept. Wis. Agr. Exp. Sta. (1894): 196‑200; "The Source of Bacterial Infection of Milk and the Relation of the Same to the Keeping Qualities of Milk," 11th Annual Rept. Wis. Agr. Exp. Sta. (1894): 150‑155; with W.G. Clark, "Tuberculosis at the Wisconsin Experiment Station," Veterinary Magazine (Aug. 1894); "Investigations on Bacteria," Botanical Gazette 20 (1895): 4198‑422; "Pasteurization of Milk and Cream for Direct Consumption," Bull. Wisc. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 44 (1895); "Typhoid Fever Disseminated through the Milk Supply," Science (15 Nov. 1895): 682‑683; "The Pasteurization of Milk," Pharmaceutical Review 14 (May 1896); "Tainted or Defective Milks: Their Causes and Methods of Prevention," Bull. Wisc. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 62 (1897); with Babcock, "The Cheese Industry: Its Development and Possibilities in Wisconsin," Bull. Wis. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 62 (1897); "A Bacterial Rot of Cabbage and Allied Plants," Bull. Wis. Agr. Exp. Station 65 (1898); with E.H. Farrington, "Pasteurization as Applied to Butter Making," Bull. Univ. Wisc. Ag. Exp. Station no. 69 (1898); "Eradication of Bovine Tuberculosis," Hoard's Dairyman 28 (1898): 953;
More Pubs: with Hastings, "Bovine Tuberculosis in Wisconsin," Bull. Univ. Wisc. Agr. Exp.Sta. no. 84 (1901); with Frost, "Outlines Regarding the Nature and Cause of Communicable Disease," in School Hygiene by the Wisc. Dept. of Public Instruction (Madison: Democrat Printing, 1901); Public Water Supplies (Madison: Turneaure and Russell, 1901); with E.D. Roberts "Anthrax Outbreak at La Crosse: in 1902," Report of the Live Stock Sanitary Board of Wisconsin, 1903 (1903): 42‑52; with Hastings, Outlines of Dairy Bacteriology: A Concise Manual for the Use of Students in Dairying 3rd ed., 192 pp. (1898); 5th ed. 199 pp (1902), 8th ed. rev. 199 pp. (Madison: Russell, 1905), 9th ed., 214 pp. (1910); 10th ed., 223 pp. (1914); 11th ed., 231 pp. (1920); 12th ed., 238 pp. (1928); with V.H. Bassett, "The Significance of Certain Gas‑producing Bacteria of Non‑Colon Type in Sanitary Water Analysis," Trans. Am. Pub. Health Assoc. 25 (1900); with Hastings, "A Swiss Cheese Trouble Caused by a Gas‑Forming Yeast," Bull. Univ. of Wisc. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 128 (1905); with Hastings, "Distribution of Tuberculosis in Suspected and Non‑Suspected Herds in Wisconsin," Bull. Univ. of Wisc. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 133 (1906); with Hastings, Agricultural Bacteriology (Madison, Wis.; H.L. Russell, 1909), 2nd ed., 304 pp. (1915); 3rd ed., 368 pp. (New York: Century Co., 1921); with Hastings, Experimental Dairy Bacteriology (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1909); Russell and Hoffman, "Vaccination against Tuberculosis in Cattle with Bovovaccine (Von Behring)," Bull. Wisc. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 165 (1908); with Hastings, "A Catechism on Bovine Tuberculosis," Circular of Information, Univ. of Wisc. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 23 (Jan. 1911); with K.L. Hatch, "Carrying Agricultural Science to the Farm," Bulletin of the Univ. Wisc. Agr. Exp. Station no. 275 (1917); with K.L. Hatch, "Serving Wisconsin Farmers in War Time," Bulletin of the Univ. Wisc. Agr. Exp. Sta. no. 294 (1918); check bibliography and review of work by Hastings, in Papers on Bacteriology and Allied Subjects (Madison: Univ. Wisc. Press, 1921); John Muir, America's Great Naturalist (n.p. 1935) 15 pp;
SAB Involvement: Charter SAB member; SAB council member 1902, 1903; member SAB Comm. on Publication 1903‑1904; SAB president 1908; resigned without paying dues 1916;
Presidential Address: Program lists title as “Ecology of Microorganisms.” From Clark’s “Half Century of Presidential Addresses:” No record of his address in the literature or in the archives. Russell has no defined memory of the occasion but believes he discussed “Mixed associations of bacteria, their interaction, and the final establishment of the dominant organism as occurs in other forms of life.” (personal communication).
Archive Files: See, Edward Beardsley's, Harry L Russel and Agricultural Science in Wisconsin (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1939); "Early Bacteriology," Harding in Regional History, 7‑IIA, 10.16; See, obit by J. Roger Porter in Journal of Bacteriology in 1954 or 1955; Sarles' unpublished manuscript in ASM Archives: 13:II J, Folder 3; Kremers Reference Files, 1828, 1 folder; Hastings, "A Review of the Scientific Work of H.L. Russell," 1921. ANB; Nat. Cyclopedia Am. Biog. 43:32-33, 1961; in Wisconsin Magazine of History: “Harry L. Russell in Europe” (XLIX:1, 1965) and “Russell, Babcock and the Cold Curing of Cheese” (XLIX:2, 1965-66)
In many respects, Russell exemplifies a wonderful combination of basic and applied research.
Russell was introduced to bacteriology by Trelease and Birge during graduate study. He spent two years in Europe, studying in Paris, Berlin and Naples. Upon returning he completed his graduate work under Welch, writing a thesis on bacterial plant diseases. Up until that time, bacteriology at Hopkins had been limited to diseases of humans and animals, and many thought that the environment within the plant was such that no bacteria could develop.
Along with Jordan, he held a fellowship in Biology at Chicago, "well illustrating the way in which early bacteriology was handed over to any department in the University which chanced to be interested in the subject." (Harding 1938, p. 11)
In 1893, he was brought back to Wisconsin by Dean Henry to develop the bacteriology of milk and its products and to provide instruction in bacteriology. He provided informal coursework in the fall of 1893 for the newly created department of bacteriology, but offered the formal course of lectures and laboratory work in 1894. Russell was appointed as the first chair of the Dept. of Bacteriology within the College of Letters and Sciences in 1893, while he had a joint appointment at the Agricultural Experiment Station.
Harding recalls that Russell's course was the one of the first of its kind, and "left something to be desired regarding perspective. At the close of the course we understood that bacteria were the most important factor in the scheme of the universe...Russell had been trained as plant physiologist and tended to discuss the physiological aspects of bacteriology. However, B. coli and the pathogens were about all the forms which had been studied sufficiently to present workable material for illustration. At that time the germs responsible for the souring of milk had not been recognized and made available for class demonstration." (Harding 1938, p. 16)
BACT‑NOM "There was just the beginning of a flora of air, soil and water. However, as there was no recognized system of classification the flora of a region was limited to the forms with which the worker became personally familiar." (Harding 1938, p. 16)
CHAPT‑ONE "The thing we acquired, which was of permanent value, was an appreciation of the many points at which germ life touch our ordinary activities and a burning desire to add to the scanty stock of information in this field." (Harding 1938, p. 17)
In contrast, Hastings claims that "The broad training which Dr. Russell had had under Dr. Birge convinced him of the desirability of presenting bacteriology as a general biological subject." (Hastings 1937, p. 9) In fact, his course was given in connection with the College of Letters and Science, not the College of Agriculture. Many of his students were pre‑med. "This course was the first in general bacteriology to be presented in this country and among the first of any type course in bacteriology in the United States." (Hastings 1937, p. 10) As Russell and Frost were trained in botany, "the early instruction in bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin was more general in its nature than at most of the other centers where instruction was being given at that time, the tendency being to limit the instruction in most places almost wholly to the relation of bacteria to diseases of man, and incidentally of the lower animals." (Hastings 10)
When Russell came to Wisconsin, he took an active interest in tuberculosis, and upon testing the University Herd found 28 out of 30 cows infected. Russell was studying in Berlin at the time that tuberculin was announced. His studies on the tuberculin test were published in the 11th Ann. Rept. of the Wisc. Ag. Exp. Station in 1894, and documented the first series of tests applied west of the Alleghenies. The crux of Russell's argument was that the tuberculin test was vastly superior to a veterinarian's physical examination. (Alexander 124) Russell and Hastings lobbied for a law requiring that all cattle "imported for breeding or dairy purposes should be subjected to the tuberculin test, before shipment, or as soon as they were brought into the state." (Alexander 205). In 1908, Russell and Hoffman advised the enactment of a law requiring a clean bill of health to go with each sale of cattle, and of a law requiring the pasteurizing of factory milk products.
By the first decade of this century, Russell was using a great deal of the demonstration/illustration methods described by Latour. In Bulletin No. 126 of 1905, Russell recounts a tale of two herds, where one owner did nothing to "stay the ravages" of tuberculosis, and later found that 69 of his 72 head contracted the disease. "Early application of the test might have saved the owners of these herds thousands of dollars." Another owner, who had "followed the correct policy,” found but one cow affected, eliminated the animal, and so prevented spread of the infection. "His herd was saved in the nick of time." (Alexander 263)
The Bulletins were laden with resonant metaphors. MILITARY No. 33 from Feb. 1906 claimed that "an enemy in ambush is more feared than one in the open, because there is always an element of uncertainty as to the strength of the opposing force." So it was with the struggle against tuberculosis. Tuberculin could "unmask" the presence of the foe for final eradication. (Alexander 282) In this connection, the Live Stock Sanitary Board issued special bulletins on barn disinfection, and the USDA prepared supplies of tuberculin for free distribution, "under certain conditions."
Russell and the department shipped out some 5,500 doses of tuberculin in 1905, resulting in the detection and elimination of 600 reactors. In 1907, that number reached 12,000 and the station had given special direction by mail for the application of 10,740 tests. By 1909, they calculated that a total of 72,638 animals had been tested since 1892, and that there had been a decline in the percentage of reactors from 17.7 in 1906 to 5.6 in 1908. The public demonstrations of testing and slaughter were conducted by Russell and the State Veterinarian on the State Fair Grounds in Milwaukee. Similar demonstrations were given at the Experiment Station before assemblages of members of the State Legislature, agricultural students and the general public. (Alexander 279) In 1909, these demonstrations moved to the extension service, and post‑mortem demonstrations of reactors were held at county agricultural schools in addition to the state and county fairs.
In 1907, he studied infected udders and determined a causal relationship with a group of streptococci. He might have suggested a possible link to septic sore throats.
By 1911, Hastings’s and Russell's bulletins on bovine tuberculosis were less research and more extension. No. 43 was a "Catechism on Bovine Tuberculosis," a truly odd title. Around 1900, Russell became active in the campaign against human tuberculosis, serving as president of the advisory board of the State Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Wales.
His early work on diary bacteriology was on determining the avenues from which bacteria enter milk: "the bacterial technique of that day did not enable him to get a very accurate estimate of the relative importance of these various avenues." (Harding 1938, 18). In the mid 1890's, Russell concluded that not only must milk "be secured and handled with scrupulous cleanliness after it is drawn from the cow, but the care of the animal and her surroundings must be of such a nature as to diminish to the greatest extent the possibility of contamination....The milk must also be stored at the lowest possible temperature." (Alexander p. 116)
In Bulletin No. 62 of 1897, Russell reported on how microorganisms gained access to milk, and the conditions that favor their development. He detailed the various kinds of infection, such as lactic acid fermentation, gassy milk, sweet curdling and digesting fermentation, slimy fermentation, bitter fermentation, etc. This report also discussed taints due to absorption of odors, and recommended procedures for their treatment (e.g., pasteurization). The report concluded with practical advice regarding the hygienic and sanitary care of cows, milking, storage and transportation, and care of milk utensils.
Russell was an early advocate of pasteurization, first and foremost for concerns of the transmissibility of tuberculosis, but also due to the documented cases of typhoid, scarlet fever and diphtheria from infected milk. Russell helped determine the temperatures at which milk takes a "cooked" taste, and then recommended means of rapid cooling. In 1905, he evaluated the Miller "continuous flow" machine, determining that it heated milk for approx. 30 seconds, far too short. When the temperatures were raised to above 175 degrees, the bacteriological results were adequate, but resulted in a pronounced cooked taste, and eliminated creaming properties. The trick was to increase the time, and find a temperature that allowed for quality taste and creaming.
In 1895, Russell also worked on the flora responsible for the ripening of cheese, and the pasteurization of milk. He found that cheese could be cured at temperatures near 50 degrees F., which were far lower than commonly applied, with the result that the quality of cheese was much improved. The cold curing studies were carried out in cooperation with the Dairy Division of the USDA and the NY Exp. Station in Geneva. "It has saved and is saving every year large sums of money to the industry through the prevention of abnormal cheese." (Hastings 1921, p. 17)
Russell also advocated the use of pure lactic acid ferments, in the place of homemade starters in cheese making. By their use, a greater uniformity could be secured, without the danger of undesirable bacteria which sometimes enter the homemade starters. In Bulletin No. 60 (1897) Babcock and Russell argued that the State of Wisconsin owed much of its prosperity to the development of the dairy industry, and that cheese makers were advised to "study their business more thoroughly, and thereby acquire a more complete insight into the why and the wherefore of many of the processes that go on in cheese making." (Alexander p. 151)
In the fourteenth annual report of the station, Russell and Babcock reported that the ripening of hard cheese was not due solely to bacteria, but rather caused by the joint action of both organized (bacteria) and unorganized ferments (enzymes). The breaking down of the casein was due to the action of enzymes, which may have been derived from bacteria. This conclusion was a product on the work of cold curing cheese. The next year, Babcock and Russell, with assistance of Alfred Vivian, isolated the enzyme responsible for the ripening of cheese, deeming it "Galactase." The following bulletins determined the distribution of galactase at different periods of lactation, measured by the amount of soluble proteins formed.
In 1895, at the request of a local leading cannery, Russell studied the gaseous fermentation of the pea canning industry, finding two different bacterial species in the cans. One was capable of fermenting the soluble sugars and produced the gas. Cooking the cans under a steam pressure of 18 pounds, and at a temperature of 250 degrees F ended the trouble. He had an aborted study on silage, but found little or nothing.
In a tangential study, Russell and Babcock investigated in 1896 pasteurized cream, which had the unfortunate characteristic of a cooked taste and an inability to whip. They discovered the clumping of fat globules in milk and cream which caused the whipping effect. They then devised a mixture of lime water and sugar, which, when added to the pasteurized milk, restores its fat clumping ability. They called it viscogen, but were criticized for inventing a way to make light cream look like heavy cream. Their work paved the way for methods of adjusting the body of cream after pasteurization.
At the 1900 meeting of the SAB, Russell and Babcock presented "Concerning the Theories of Silage Formation." Actually, the paper was read by Conn. At the 1901 meeting, Russell and Hastings reported on the "Conditions Affecting the Thermal Death Point of Bacteria in Milk," in which they confirm Smith's finding that the death point was raised when heated in contact with air. At the same 1901 meeting, Russell independently presented on the "Toxicity of Water toward Pathogenic Bacteria and the Possible Significance of the Same in the Spontaneous Purification of Polluted Waters." In this paper, he suggests that some pathogenic organisms could not survive long in natural water, and discussion followed by Novy, Vaughan and Jordan.
At the 1905 meeting of the SAB, Russell and Hastings reported on "Abnormal Cheese Troubles due to Lactose Fermenting Yeasts." Interestingly, his presidential address before the SAB in 1908 was on the "Ecology of Microorganisms." BIOLOGY?
Russell was also responsible for the bacteriological examination of water (with E.G. Smith of Beloit College) for the Hygienic Laboratory of the State. He was director of the Lab from 1903 to 1908.
Interestingly, Russell conducted a joint study with R.A. Moore, from the Agronomy Dept. on "Inoculation Experiments with Alfalfa and Soy Beans," published in the22nd. Ann. Rept., 1905. The study compared the soil transfer method with that of pure cultures. They found that most Wisconsin soils already contained sufficient legume bacteria for peas. Moreover, they found that the commercial cultures and BPI cultures were poor. "However desirable the culture method of inoculation would seem when considered from a theoretical point of view, our present knowledge lends us to recommend the more reliable method of soil inoculation..." (261)
Upon becoming dean of the College of Agriculture, Russell pushed for a consolidation of bacteriology courses from Letters and Sciences and Home Economics. He succeeded in 1914, and appointed Hastings as Chair. Russell was instrumental in integrating bacteriological work to the extension service of the Ag. Station.