Tuesday, 20 March 2018 14:34

In Memoriam: Richard C. Tilton

Dr. Richard C. Tilton, 81, of Farmington, Connecticut, died November 28, 2017. A native of Massachusetts, Tilton received his B.S. degree in 1958 from Tufts University, and then served with the USMC before continuing his studies at Boston College and the University of Massachusetts, where he earned a Ph.D. in Microbiology. In 1965, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the University of Connecticut, Storrs Campus, and in 1968 he was appointed Director of the Microbiology Division, Department of Laboratory Medicine at the newly established University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He retired from the University as Director of Clinical Microbiology in 1988.


Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Tilton served on numerous university and state health committees, American Society for Microbiology (ASM) committees, and American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) committees. He was an active member of the Connecticut Valley Branch of ASM, and served in various leadership roles for the Branch. In addition, he served in leadership capacities for the American Board of Medical Microbiology, including as Chair (1982-1985) and also served on the AAM Board of Governors (1982–1985). Dr. Tilton served on the Board of Editors (1975-1984) for the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, and later served as Editor (1984-1989), and as Editor-in-chief (1989-1999) of the publication.  


Throughout his career, Tilton’s many national and international presentations, scientific publications, books and review articles focused in great part on rapid methods and automation in clinical microbiology. In 1985, he was the first-ever recipient of the Abbott Laboratories Award in the Rapid Diagnosis of Human Diseases.


Excerpt from the award announcement published in ASM News, Vol. 51, No 4, 1985:


“…As a result of his many significant contributions in this ever-expanding field, it is indeed fitting that this honor be awarded to Dr. Tilton… Before automation and rapid methods were introduced into the clinical microbiology laboratory, Dr. Tilton published an automated microtiter technique in 1973. He was the first to investigate the variables associated with this technique and also the first to attempt its standardization as it relates to antimicrobial susceptibility testing. He applied this technology to rapid susceptibility testing of fastidious organisms.


With the advent of the first automated equipment for rapid susceptibility testing, i.e., Pfizer Autobac, he modified the procedure and was the first to report 3-hour MIC results for Haemophilus influenza and other fastidious organisms. Using the same technology, he developed a granulocyte function test which measured the antibacterial activity of leukocytes stored under various conditions.


He also shared an interest with other investigators in the rapid detection of bacteriuria. This interest led not only to rapid screening by Gram stain or acridine orange but to direct antimicrobial susceptibility testing of certain specimens.


… Besides his research in the area of rapid diagnosis, he has spent a great deal of time and effort promoting the use and development of innovative approaches to the diagnosis of infectious diseases, which directly relates to better patient care…”


After retirement, Dr. Tilton continued to work and consult as Chief Scientific Officer for several diagnostic labs.