Novy, Frederick George


Dates:           b. 1864; 1887 to Michigan; retired 1934; d. 1957

Locations:    Assist. Prof. (1891‑1893); Junior Prof. (1893‑1902); Prof. and Chair of Dept. of Bacteriology (1902‑1934); Director, Laboratory of Hygiene (1909‑1935); Dean, Medical School University of Michigan (1933‑1935); member, Michigan St. Board of Health (1897‑1899); founder Pasteur Inst. at Ann Arbor (1903)

Training:      BS in chem. 1886; MS in chem. 1887; ScD 1890 U of Mich; MD 1891 from U of Mich.; 1888 went to Koch's and Pasteur's Lab and studied under Fraenkel; 1897 to Pasteur Inst.

Fields:          general; veterinary; medical; biology; protozoology

Publications: editorial staff of Journal of Infectious Diseases; Direction for Laboratory Work in Bacteriology (Ann Arbor:  George Wahr, 1894 and 1899); Novy and MacNeal, On the Cultivation of Trypanosoma lewisi, Contributions to Medical Research (Michigan, 1903); "On Trypanosomes," Harvey Society Lectures 1 (1906): 33‑72; and R.S. Knapp, "Studies on Spirillum obermeieri and Related Organisms," J. Infect. Dis. 3 (1906): 291‑303; "Disease Carriers," Science 36 (1912): 1‑10; Novy and de Kruif, "Anaphylatoxin and Anaphylaxis:  Trypanosome Anaphlyatoxin," J. Infect. Dis. 20 (1917): 499‑535

SAB Involvement:  Charter member of SAB; 5th SAB Pres. 1904; SAB Council Member 1905, 1907; possible session organizer for protozoology 1916 meeting; Pres. Am. Society for Experimental Pathology 1921; Pres. Am. Assoc. of Immunologist 1924; Vice President of the International Congress on Microbiology in London 1926; SAB Honorary Member 1937

Presidential Address: “Hematazoa in Birds” Science 21:481 Abstract only. “An abstract or partial summary of the results obtained in this study appeared in American Medicine, November 26, 1904. The work in full will come out in two papers, the first of which, dealing with the Trypanosomes in birds, will appear in the second number (1905) of the Journal of Infectious Diseases; the second paper, dealing with the Cytozoa, may be expected in the third number of that journal.”

Archive Files: 2‑IXC, folder 53, "Bacteriology at the University of Michigan," Malcolm Soule, 1946 roundtable; Winslow in 1950 refers to a manuscript prepared by William K. Emery, and in the possession of Soule; Winslow, "Some Leaders and Landmarks in the History of Microbiology," Bact. Rev. 14 (1950): 99‑114; Esmond R. Long, "Frederick G. Novy, December 9, 1864‑August 8, 1957," NAS Biog. Memoirs 33 (1959): 326‑350; Routh Good, "Frederick G. Novy:  Biographic Sketch," Univ. of Michigan Medical Bulletin 16 (1950): 257‑268; Walter J. Nungester, Science 127 (1958): 274; J. of Bacteriology 74 (1957): 545‑547; ANB; DSB; DAB; Archives and Manuscripts held at Michigan 13 linear ft., includes correspondence, research notes, and student notebooks. 



     Novy was trained in chemistry as an undergraduate, and took a modest post in the Univ. Dept. of Organic Chemistry upon completing his BA.  His MA was on cocaine and its derivatives.  Within a year, Vaughan convinced Novy to teach in the Dept. of Physiological Chemistry.  Novy became interested in bacteriology from his work with Vaughan on Ptomaines in 1888.  The two made a journey to Paris and Berlin in the summer of 1888, and Novy took a course under Fraenkel. (His notebooks from this course are in the ASM Archives.)  Novy wrote his doctoral thesis in 1890 on the chemistry of the hog cholera bacillus.

     Mostly under Vaughan, taught general Bacteriology from 1891 to 1934, from a very chemical `point of view.  Taught tons of students.  Worked on spirochetes, trypanosomes, anaerobic bacteria, microbial respiration, bacteriophage, and microbial dissociation with Hadley.  Most of Novy's early studies were in organic chemistry, but incidentally he discovered an anaerobic organism responsible for septicemia in rabbits, named Bacillus novyi in Migula's classification.  Such organisms had been known as far back as the 1870's, mostly notably identified by August Gaertner of Jena, but Novy's organism was recognized as a key agent. 

     As for his work in protozoology, he failed to cultivate the parasite of malaria, but did succeed with some trypanosomes isolated from the blood of rats in 1903.  According to Winslow, he produced the first case experimental infection with Leishmania, and in 1904 he cultivated Trypanosoma brucei, and identified the spirochete of American relapsing fever (1906) called Spriochaeta novyi.  Novy and Knapp demonstrated that several different strains of spirochetes were responsible for relapsing fevers in different regions. 

     Most importantly, Novy (with MacNeal) was the first to develop methods of cultivating trypanosomes (in the condensation water of blood agar tubes), and his methods were used extensively in the study of T. brucei, the etiological agent of nagana.  In their attempts to produce artificial immunity to trypanosome infections, Novy and de Kruif noted a number of cases of anaphylaxis. 

     In 1901, he and Flexner were part of the Federal Commission sent to study plague in San Francisco.  But his main public service role was in his popular writings on hygienic and public health topics.  He also reported on diphtheria antitoxin production.

     Responsible for the "Novy Apparatus" for culturing anaerobic bacteria under hydrogen. It was a two jarred system, with the culture plate placed between, and hydrogen filled and then sealed by a valve. 

     Novy apparently was a key motivator in the formation of the SAB.  At the 1901 meeting of the SAB, Novy presented "On the Germicidal Action of the Organic Peroxides," in which he tried to detail the exact mechanism by which certain substances inhibit some bacteria.  The paper was discussed by Welch and was later published in Journal of Experimental Medicine and the American Journal of Chemistry.   At the 1903 meeting, Novy and MacNeal demonstrated the "Cultivation of Trypanosomes," which was discussed by Park, Carroll, Smith, Rickards and Kinyoun.  For his presidential address in 1904, Novy delivered a paper "On the Hematozoa of Birds," discussing trypanosome infections and cytozoa, which was then published in American Medicine 26 Nov. 1904 and the second number of J. of Infectious Diseases 1905.

     At the 1905 meeting, Novy and R.S. Knapp gave a demonstration on "Spirochaete obermeieri," obtained by Norris of Bellevue, which was to be published in J. of Infectious Diseases.  Also at that meeting, Novy, MacNeal and H.N. Torrey presented on "Mosquito Trypanosomes," and Novy and Knapp discussed the "Isolation of Trypanosomes from Accompanying Bacteria."  The last paper suggested that bacteria, once introduced into a culture of trypanosomes, tended to outgrow and check the development of flagellates.  However, "in exceptional instances, however, the bacteria thus introduced exert little or no interference and may be even apparently beneficial."  This was particularly relevant for mosquito trypanosomes, which were always accompanied by bacteria and yeasts.  Later that afternoon, Novy provided a "Demonstration of Living Cultures of Trypanosomes from Birds, Mammals, and Mosquitoes in the Bacteriological Laboratory."  Novy and Knapp submitted "The Cultivation of Spirillum obermeieri," at the 1906 meeting in NYC.  Both were absent, and the paper was ready by title.

     Offered the first lecture‑lab course in the United States.  Called, "Practical Bacteriology" offered as a 5 times a week, 4 hour class for 12 week course.  In later years, he divided the lecture course from laboratory instruction, and from 1913 to 1920 gave different versions for medical, dental and engineering students. 

     In the late 1910's and the 1920's, Novy began studies on microbic respiration, one of the key developments in bacterial physiology.  Novy and Soule published a number of papers on the respiration of tubercle bacilli, delineating the gas exchange conditions.  He presented a paper at the 1922 AAPB meeting on the gas changes in cultures of bacteria.

     Novy held a life‑long interest in bacteriological chemistry, searching especially for the toxic products of bacterial growth responsible for disease characteristics.  In this way, he was very much like Vaughan.