July 31, 1859: Birth of Theobald Smith

1210 Theobald SmithJuly 31, 1859: Theobald Smith is born.Theobald Smith (July 31, 1859 – December 10, 1934) was a pioneering epidemiologist and pathologist and is widely-considered to be America’s first internationally-significant medical research scientist.”

“Theobald Smith recognized the multiple applications of microbiology but was far keener on its contribution to sanitation, public health, and preventive medicine than to veterinary medicine and agriculture. From 1886 to 1895, he gave an annual course in bacteriology at the National Medical College, and in 1887 he began research in his spare time on water sanitation. Bacterial counts of samples from the Potomac River from a laboratory tap culminated 5 years later in surveys of the Hudson River and tributaries, with the coliform count (verified by his “fermentation tube” method) indicating the degree of fecal pollution.”

Commentary: He was also responsible for inventing the fermentation tube that to this day is called the Smith Tube. Theobald Smith was certainly the “Father of the total coliform test.”

Reference: Dolman, C.E. 1984. “Theobald Smith, 1859-1934: A Fiftieth Anniversary Tribute.” ASM News. 50:12 577-80.

Fermentation Tube

Smith Fermentation Tube

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