Wilson, Ezra H.


Dates:           b. 1858; 1894 to Hoagland; d. 1905

Locations:    Intern, St. Catherine's; Assist. Dept. of Hist. and Path. (1890‑1894); Dir. Bureau of Pathology, Bacteriology, and Disinfection, Brooklyn (1894‑1898); Bacteriologist and Dir. Hoagland Laboratory (1898‑1905)

Training:      MD College of Physicians & Surgeons 1882; Pasteur Inst., Paris; Hygienic Inst. at Hamburg

Fields:          public health; medical; milk; sanitation; hygiene; biology

Publications: "Technical Methods for the Central Nervous System,"; "Tubercular Nephritis," "Nasal Bacteria in Influenza," "Tuberculosis Testis,"; "A Proper Method of Room Disinfection," (1897); "Optimal Reaction of Liquid Culture Medium," (1899); "Immunity," (1900); "The Bacteriology of Acute Rheumatism," (1901); "The Importance of Bacterial Examination of the Public Water Supply," (1901);  with Thomas, "Diplococcus intracellularis Meningitis," (1901)

SAB Involvement:  Charter SAB member;

Archive Files: Arnold H. Eggerth, The History of the Hoagland Laboratory (Brooklyn, 1960)



     In 1892, Wilson presented a paper before the Brooklyn Pathological Society on "Asiatic Cholera," complete with prepared slides and a description of the methods for identifying organisms in cultures.

     Wilson was the first and only director of the Bur. of Path., Bact. and Disinfection in Brooklyn.  This lab was housed in the third floor of the Hoagland Laboratory, and was the second such municipal bacteriological lab in the US.  Like Biggs and Park, Wilson outfitted local physicians with throat culture kits, consisting of Loeffler's medium, a sterile swab and a leaflet of instructions, which were obtained and returned to local drug stores.  Between May 1894 and Jan. of 1895, he examined some 1,670 cultures, finding 890 positive for the Klebs‑Loeffler Bacillus.  In 1894, there were 3,812 cases of diphtheria, and 1,279 deaths.

     Wilson, like his counterparts in NYC, produced antitoxin in the fall of 1894, in three different potencies.  He also supervised the use of a large steam sterilizer for the disinfection of clothing, bedding and other articles.  Wilson studied the common practices of room disinfection, favoring the French innovation of formaldehyde vapors over the prevalent sulphur dioxide gas.  Park was working a similar method a few years after Wilson.

     In 1894, Wilson also published popular and scientific articles on the dangers of impure milk, providing instructions for home sterilization.  Later in the 1890's, he performed routine Widal blood tests, stool cultures, pus smears for gonococci and sputum smears for tubercle bacilli.

     Wilson's Bureau was dissolved when the City of Brooklyn was incorporated within Greater New York City in 1898.  Wilson remained at Hoagland as a research bacteriologist, with a salary raised to $2,000 a year.  A year later, Wilson and Randolph were studying the optimum "titratable acidity" (e.g., pH) of bacterial cultures.  In addition, Wilson studied a few cases of suspected plague at the Quarantine Station in Manhattan. 

     As a minor side project, Wilson maintained a culture collection of 70 species, sending cultures to labs without cost.  He also made a photographic record of each culture in 1901, believing that morphological characteristics would change in different phases of growth. 

     At the 1900 meeting of the SAB, Wilson submitted a very short description of a new "Low Temperature Incubator," which was read by title, and discussed by Abbot, Conn, Prescott, Sedgwick and Park.

     Wilson was also chair of the APHA Comm. on Standard Methods for the Evaluation of Disinfectants, and in 1901 he issued a report recommending the standards of Staphylococcus pyogenes aureus and bicholoride of mercury.  He also performed many of the bacteriological work essential for the Milk Commission of Kings County in 1903.

     Wilson, with White, turned to the chemistry of bacterial toxins in 1903.  He sought to purify the toxin of the typhoid bacillus, in hopes of using horses to produce an antitoxin.

     White died young, at the age of 48.