Bergey, David Hendricks


Bergey, David Hendricks


Dates:          b. 1860; 1893 to U. Penn lab. of hygiene; enlisted 1918; retired 1931; d. 1937

Locations:    Scott Fellow, Laboratory of Hygiene (1884); Assist. in Chemistry, Laboratory of Hygiene (1895); First Assist. (1896‑1928); Major, Medical Res. Corps, U.S. Army (1918‑1919); Director pro tem of the School of Hygiene and Public Health (1928‑1929); Dir. Lab. of Hygiene (1929‑1931); Assistant Prof. of Bacteriology, Medical School (1903); Assist. Prof. of Hygiene and Bact., Medical School (1916‑1926); Prof. of Bact. and Hygiene, University of Pennsylvania (1926‑1931); Dir. Research in Biology, National Drug Company (1932‑1937)

Training:       BS and MD at Penn 1884; A.M. non‑resident from Illinois Wesleyan University; D.P.H. from Univ. Penn 1916

Fields:          public health; bacterial nomenclature; food; immunology; milk; save

Publications:  Principles of Hygiene 1st ed. (Philadelphia:  W.B. Saunders Co., 1901, 2nd ed. 1904; 3rd 1909; 4th 1912; 5th,  1914; 6th  1918; 7th 1921); Handbook of Practical Hygiene (Easton PA:  The Chemical Publishing Co., 1899); Methods for the Determination of Organic Matter in Air (Wash. D.C.; Smith Inst., 1896); An Investigation of the Influence upon the Vital Resistance of Animals to the Microorganisms of Disease Brought about by Prolonged Sojourn in an Impure Atmosphere ( Wash. D.C.; Smithsonian Institution, 1898);  "Common Colds:  Their Cause, Prevention, and Treatment," Phil. Medical Journal May 19, 1900; "The Source and Nature of Bacteria in Milk," Penn. Dept. of Agriculture, General Bulletin no. 125 (1904); "The Leucocyte and Streptococcus Content of Cows' Milk," Univ. Penn. Med. Bull. 20 (1907): 106‑109; "The Biological Relation between Bacteria and the More Highly Organized Flora of Running Streams.  Comparative Studies upon the Pseudo‑Diphtheria, or Hofmann Bacillus, the Xeroxis Bacillus, and the Loeffler Bacillus," Contrib. from the Lab. of Hygiene, no. 1‑2, (1898); "Pedagogics of Bacteriology," J. of Bacteriology (1916); chapter on "Domestic Hygiene," in Pyle's Personal Hygiene (1904); "Thermophilic Bacteria," J. of Bact. 4 (1919): 301‑306;  over seventy articles and seven books

SAB Involvement:  Charter SAB member; member of Phil. Bug Club; Pres. Eastern Penn. Branch, 1920‑1922; SAB council member 1911, 1913; SAB Delegate to the AAAS 1912; president of SAB 1915; Chair Bergey's Committee on a Manual of Determinative Bacteriology late 1910's and early 1920's; session chair of "Pedagogics of Bacteriology" 1916 SAB meeting; local committee chair SAB 1921 meeting; Chair, SAB Committee on Teaching of Bacteriology, early 1920's; active in AAPB but resigned in 1910's.

Presidential Address: “The Pedagogics of Bacteriology,” J. Bact. 1: 5-14, 1916 Archive Files: McFarland's article; Carl J. Bucher and Harry E. Morton Science 86 (8 Oct. 1937): 320‑321; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography 28 (1940): 338‑339; Rosenberger's obit in 1937 for J. of Bacteriology and Robert S. Breed, "David Hendricks Bergey," Journal of Bacteriology 35 (April 1938): 343‑345; Obit, NYR (6 Sept. 1937); U. Penn has a folder of biographical information, but no papers. 


     Bergey was a descendant of "pioneering Swiss immigrants who came to America in 1726." (Morton 60)  His grandfather was a Mennonite minister and an ordained bishop of the church.  Bergey was originally trained as an apprentice to Dr. Samuel Wolfe of Shippack PA.

     Bergey entered Univ. of Penn. in 1881, taking bacteriology classes from Henry Formad (who studied with Koch).  He graduated in 1884, with a thesis on blood‑cell counting techniques.  For almost ten years he worked as a general practitioner.  In 1893, returned to Lab of Hygiene to investigate "the composition and action of air exhaled from the lungs" under a grant from the Hodgkins Fund of the Smithsonian Institute.  In 1894, he was appointed the Scott Fellow in Hygiene, and was transferred to assistant in chemistry, performing analyses of drinking water for the Penn. State Board of Health.

     His early work is a wonderful example of the blend between sanitary science and bacteriology.  His research on "impure air" was supported by the Hodgkins Fund of the Smithsonian Inst., and was directed to determine the role of airs on immunity.  His work on bacteria in running streams was both a "biological investigation" and one applied to public health.  And, the article on common colds read like a practical manual for personal hygiene.

     Bergey performed the chemical analysis of drinking water for the Penn. State Board of Health.  From 1903 onward, Bergey directed instruction in bacteriology to medical students at Penn.

     At the 1902 meeting of the SAB, Bergey presented on "The Reaction of Certain Water Bacteria with Dysentery‑Immune Serum," which was discussed by Abbott, Welch, Conn, Sternberg, Blumer, and Ford.  At the 1903 SAB meeting, Bergey reported on "The Occurrence of B. pseudodiphthericus in Cow’s Milk" (discussed by Kinyoun, Kendall, Chester, Smith, and Carroll).   At the 1904 meeting of the SAB, Bergey described "The Bacteria Encountered in Suppurations," in which he argued that many of the frequently found types were "not ordinarily classed among the pyogenic organisms."  In fact, they resembled organisms of the pseudo‑diptheria and proteus groups.

     Bergey delivered an exploratory paper on "Experiments on the Staining Properties of Bacteria, with Special Reference to the Gram Method," at the 1905 SAB meeting, which was discussed by Harrison and Prescott.  This morphological interest led him to present, at the 1906 SAB meeting, a discussion on "Involution and Degeneration Forms of Bacteria."  Bergey began lamenting that "the indefinite and confusing definitions of the nature of involution and degeneration forms of bacteria found in most textbooks on bacteriology are bewildering to the student, and leave him in doubt as to the exact significance of these terms." BACT‑NOM  The paper drew comments from Kellerman only.

     At the same 1906 SAB meeting, Bergey discussed the "Lactic Acid Bacteria in Milk," in which he evaluates the confusion regarding the designations and differentiations between B. lactis acidi, Bact. acidi lactici, Bact. aerogenes, and Strep. lacticus.  He offers the suggestion that "sugar‑splitting powers" might assist "in a more definite classification." BACT-NOM The paper drew discussion by Conn, Hiss, Kellerman and Stocking.

     Bergey returned to the SAB program in 1908, presented a discussion on "Some of the Fermentative Properties of Bacteria," and in 1910, when he discussed "Immunity in White Mice Following Injection with Spriochaeta duttonii."  The next year, Bergey was included in the session on "Physiologic Bacteriology," and discussed "Mutations in Microorganisms."  At the 1914 SAB meeting, Bergey inquired "Do Bacteria Produce Pyrogenic Poisons;" he did not provide a definitive answer.

     Bergey was a major figure in the SAB's attention to teaching; he presented "The Teaching of Elementary Systematic Bacteriology" before the 1919 meeting.  BACT-NOM

     At the 1921 SAB meeting, Bergey described a "Simple Substitute for the Hiss Serum‑Water Medium."  He mentioned that it was inconvenient for many laboratories to secure fresh serum, and he suggested the use of 1% casein solution.  Moreover, this method could be prepared in 1 hour, whereas serum took 3 days for complete sterilization.  This method was developed, in part, for Bergey's attempt to classify an enormous number of bacteria.

     For the 1923 SAB meeting, Bergey offered a description of "Specific Immunization against Streptococcus Infections."  This paper was part his work to develop short term treatments for infections preceding surgeries, and was an offshoot of his growing interest in the biologics/pharmaceutical industry.

     At the Dec. 11, 1923 SAB meeting of the Eastern Penn. Local Branch of the SAB, Bergey described the "Genus Micrococcus."  His beginning assumption was that a description of genus should include the "principle characters of the type species, as well as the general characteristics of the other members of the genus..."  He then provides the historical review of the term, and notes that the commonly employed definitions were given by Winslow and Rogers (1906) as:  facultative parasites or saprophytes.  Cells in plates or irregular masses but not in chains or packets.  General decolorized by Gram.  Growth on agar abundant, with formation of yellow pigment.  Dextrose broth slightly acid, lactose broth generally neutral, gelatin frequently liquefied.  Nitrates may or may not be reduced.

     The Bergey's committee changed the Gram stain from negative to positive, as most of the species in the literature were in fact positive.  In addition, many included were not pigment formers.  For the committee, the opening sentence emphasized the saprophytic nature of the group.  This was based on the fact that they did not survive well at body temperature, and hence were unlikely to be parasites.  The manual also indicated that growth on potato was poor, and this point was useful in differentiating between Staphylococcus and Micrococcus.

     The manual's genus was somewhat loose.  For example, it included several anaerobic, spherical bacteria, which were likely parasites.  Bergey's paper wondered if it might be better to create a separate genus of Micrococcoides.

     At the 1904 meeting of the AAPB, Bergey described an antistreptococcus serum.  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.

     His work in bacteriology was broad, covering tuberculosis, typhoid fever, diphtheria, streptococci, etc.  Bergey's work in immunology involved opsonins, phagocytosis, anaphylaxis, and tetanus toxoid.  One of his notable mistakes was the publication of research in 1926 intended to show that diabetes was due to a microbial agent.

     Member of the microbiological club.  Taught bacteriology in hygiene dept to both medical and hygiene students.  Served under Abbott for more than a decade and a half.  Joined the medical reserve corps in 1917‑1919, and stationed in Richmond in charge of clinical laboratories.

     Bergey's first interest in classification appeared in 1906, where he outlined a system of numerical classification at the AAPB meeting.  He began work on the manual soon after his term as President of the SAB ended in 1915.  As Morton described, "this was no simple task as anyone who had a microscope took turns peering at every conceivable corner of the universe and describing what they saw there."  (Morton 61).  Bergey requested the SAB appoint a committee.  The profits from the manual were intended for research work in systematic bacteriology.  The SAB, unable to fulfill this condition, turned over all royalties to the Bergey's Manual Trust in 1935.

     McFarland writes of the manual:  "It harmonized what old and new nomenclature of microorganisms, arranges them according to the modern classification and gives elaborate tables for the identification of all species that have been described."  In Bucher's and Morton's opinion, "In spite of its critics the volume stands as a great contribution to American bacteriology.  Its acceptance everywhere as a basis for bacteriological taxonomy is, in itself, testimony to its enduring value." (Bucher and Morton, 321).

     BACT‑NOM/SELF VS. OTHER ‑‑ He published a genealogy of the Bergey family which contained more than 7,000 names and consisted of more than 1000 pages without text.  Bergey Family in America:  A Record of the Descendants of John Ulrich and his wife Mary (Philadelphia:  Historical Publishing Co, 1925) also published as A Genalogy of the Bergey Familiy:  A Record.... (New York:  F.H. Hitchcock, Braunworth & Co, 1925); The Propengenitors of the Bergey Family in America (Philadelphia:  Bergey Family Association, 1907); and with Ralph L. Johnson, Genealogical Landmarks and Milestones of the Lower Perkiomen Country (Bedminister, PA:  Adams Apple Press, 1934.)  It is the simultaneous reach for the past in order to place and solidify the present status combined with a certain meticulousness that inform both taxonomic projects.  Morton makes a great deal of the deaths of his two sisters, his youngest brother and his mother.

     Bergey was made Professor of Hygiene and Bacteriology as well as Director of the Laboratory of Hygiene in 1926, only to retire in 1931.  His own research interests ranged from food preservation, anaphylaxis, and immunology.  He also believed that diabetes was caused by a virus.

     BIOLOGY.  In an address before the Class of 1928 of U Penn, Bergey maintained, "Few subjects taught touch upon so many phases of man's activities or so many of the conditions influencing his environment as does a course in bacteriology."  (Morton 62)

     When Bergey retired, he took employment with the National Drug Co., owned by Sharp and Dohm, and a former affiliate of Mulford.  Bergey was instrumental in the development of tetanus toxoid.  After Bergey's retirement, there was some mild animosity toward the university.  The Dept. of Bact. was moved from the Hygiene Building to the Medical Building, which Bergey took as an insult, as Bergey preferred to reside within Hygiene, not Medicine.  Bergey also seemed to have a falling out with the SAB over the trust in 1935.

Bergey, David