Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, MA) Microbial Diversity Course Designated as an ASM Milestones in Microbiology Site



The American Society for Microbiology

is pleased to announce its designation of the

Microbial Diversity Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL),

Woods Hole, MA,

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.


MBL-20 Plaque and MBL group DSC 1596 3

 MBL Microbial Diversity Course Milestones Plaque Dedication June 22, 2013 

(Pictured L-R - Daniel Buckley (co-Course Director),  Colleen Cavanaugh (MBL Speaker of the Corporation), Mary Buckley, Jeffery Miller (ASM President), Bill Reznikoff (MBL Director of Education), Steve Zinder, (co-Course Director)



Milestones Ceremony

A ceremony unveiling the plaque that will mark the site as a Milestone in Microbiology was held on Saturday, June 22, 2013, during the Microbial Diversity Course. Jeffery Miller, ASM President, presented the plaque on behalf of ASM.


MBL Plaque Proof - Final - 6-6-13

 The Milestones Plaque


MBL Microbial Diversity Course History

The Microbial Diversity Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole was initiated in 1971. Although there were and are several internationally known microbiologists at the MBL and its sister organization, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), there are four key scientists whose efforts resulted in the establishment and flourishing of this important course in the training of an excellent cadre of microbiologists who either studied in the course, taught in the course or both. The first was Holger Jannasch, truly a scientific grandfather for those interested in microbial ecology. Holger initiated the Microbial Diversity Course (then called Microbial Ecology Course) in 1971. He gathered an elite group of instructors and the course was an instant success.


The second and third key people who were vital to the success of the course were Selman Waksman and his son, Byron Waksman. Selman Waksman made foundational contributions to marine microbiology during summers at Woods Hole. He was also awarded a Nobel Prize for his work (at Rutgers) on the systematic search for antibiotics (leading to streptomycin, the royalties from which enabled him to establish the Foundation for Microbiology). At a critical time when the course might have ended due to lack of funding, Selman stepped forward to offer support from the Foundation for Microbiology, and then Byron Waksman worked to realize that offer after his father’s death.


The fourth key player was Harlyn Halvorson, who became the second course director in 1981. Harlyn had been introduced as a child to Woods Hole and the MBL by his father, H. Orin Halvorson, a noted microbiologist, and he had previously taught in the MBL Physiology Course. Harlyn continued the model set by Holger of collecting a group of internationally recognized microbiologists to be the course faculty, and he set the model for continued financial support of the course through a variety of granting agencies.


The faculty of the course has represented a "Who’s Who" of leading microbiologists; for instance, directors of the course included Ralph Wolfe, Pete Greenberg, Marty Dworkin, John Breznak, Ed Leadbetter, Abigail Salyers, Carrie Harwood, Alfred Spormann, Bill Metcalf and Tom Schmidt up to the current directors, Steve Zinder and Dan Buckley.



Additional Information on MBL and Microbial Diversity Course:

Click here for a PDF of the MBL Milestones Plaque

Click here for MICROBE article (October 2013 issue) regarding the MBL Milestones Designation

Click here for Press Release Announcing Designation of Milestones Site

Click here for general information on the Microbial Biodiversity Course

Click here for more information on the Milestones designation for the Microbial Biodiversity Course

Click here for general information on the Marine Biological Laboratory

Click here to access van Niel’s Course in Microbiology—a Sequel (article by Ralph S. Wolfe)

Click here for information on the MBL History Project


Milestones Program Information and Nominations for Future Milestones Sites

The Milestones in Microbiology program is administered by the Center for the History of Microbiology/ASM Archives (CHOMA) and the ASM Communications Committees. For additional information on the program, a list of previously-designated sites, and guidelines for nominating future sites, visit Milestones in Microbiology Sites on the CHOMA website or contact the ASM Archivist (