UMICH Milestones Photo 4-Dept Faculty with Plaque-P1020800a  

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)


The American Society for Microbiology Announces its Designation of the

University of Michigan Department of Microbiology and Immunology

as a Milestones in Microbiology site 


The ASM Milestones in Microbiology program recognizes institutions and the scientists who worked there

that have made significant contributions toward advancing the science of microbiology. 


Milestones Recognition

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." 


UMICH Milestones Photo 3-Kazanjian-Schaechter-Schlissel-Mobley with Plaque-P1020799a


 Milestones Site Plaque:  Univ Michigan Plaque2015r2

 PDF of Plaque:  Click Here


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. NungesterStudents 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.   





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