Tag Archives: Robert Koch

December 11, 1843: Birth of Robert Koch; 1913: Reservoir Dam Breaks…and other amazing stories

December 11, 1843:  Birth of Robert Koch. Robert Heinrich HermannKoch was born December 11, 1843, in the small city of Clausthal in what was then called Lower Saxony. The city is 120 miles south and a little east of Hamburg and about the same distance west and a little south of Berlin. American microbiologist Thomas D. Brock’s excellent 1999 biography of Koch chronicled his life, triumphs, and tragedies. Koch studied many diseases besides those that were waterborne. In addition to his innovative work in water bacteriology, he became world-famous for isolating and accurately describing the tubercle bacillus, the cause of anthrax disease (Bacillus anthracis), the cholera germ, and the genus of Staphylococcusorganisms that cause many infections in humans.

It was Robert Koch who revolutionized our understanding of microscopic organisms in water and their relation to specific diseases. Once again, tools were crucial to progress. Although Koch had basic microscopes, not everything could be described or investigated under a microscope. He needed methods to examine what made microorganisms grow and die. So, he and the scientists in his laboratory developed the tools that advanced the science of bacteriology, many of which are still in use today (i.e., standard plate count, coliform test).

In 1880, Koch changed from a German country doctor performing clever experiments in a spare bedroom to a professional researcher at the Imperial Health Office in Berlin.  It was not until December 1875 that he did his famous experiment with anthrax by injecting a rabbit with material from a diseased source and infecting the rabbit with the disease. He did not publish the paper describing his groundbreaking anthrax research until December 1876.

In Berlin, Koch realized that the key to advances in bacteriology was development of pure cultures of the organisms causing disease. He was aware of early work in which a limited number of bacteria were grown on the solid surface of potato slices. However, the human pathogens he was interested in studying did not grow very well on a potato substrate.

Robert Koch developed the tools that spawned the next generation of advances in bacteriology, and these advances provide a direct link to the two Jersey City trials. Without his breakthroughs, there would not have been any bacteriological data to determine if the Boonton Reservoir was providing pure and wholesome water to Jersey City.

In 1881, Koch published his seminal paper on bacterial growth on a solid medium. Called the “Bible of Bacteriology,” the paper (in German) described in some detail how Koch combined the liquid medium in which pathogens would grow with a solidifying agent—gelatin. The transparent nutrient gelatin could be fixed onto a transparent glass plate, and the use of a magnifying lens made counting the bacterial colonies that grew on the nutrient medium quite easy. Because of his research on tuberculosis, Koch received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905.

In 1908, Koch and his wife visited the United States as part of a world tour. In many ways, this trip was Koch’s victory lap. But the trip was the beginning of the end for Koch; he died two years later in Baden-Baden on May 27, 1910, at the age of 67.

References: 

Brock, Thomas D. 1999. Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology. Washington, D.C.: ASM Press.

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

December 11, 1913:  Reservoir Dam Breaks…and other amazing stories.

Reservoir Dam Breaks.Abilene, Tex.-A break has occurred in the dam at Syth Lake Reservoir, effecting a great gap through which 600,000,000 gallons of water escaped. A large section of the land bordering on the reservoir was badly flooded. The city of Abilene had to go without water and for that reason the electric power plant was forced to shut down its boilers. The manufacturing plants were also unable to operate.

Hydrants to be Standardized.Oak Point, Cal.-An important improvement was ordered for this district by Commissioner of Public Works E. M. Wilder. Wilder has directed that all hydrants be standardized so that the same size wrench or spanner may open any of the hydrants in this district. Recently many complaints have been filed on account of broken nuts on the hydrants, caused by the use of different kinds of wrenches.

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:24 (December 11, 1913): 800.

April 5, 1827: Birth of Joseph Lister

April 5, 1827:  Birth of Joseph Lister. He was born in Upton House, Essex, England on April 5, 1827 and died on February 10, 1912. His life covered the entire span of the harshest debates over the germ theory of disease and its general acceptance.

Lister completed his medical education including attendance at the Royal College of Surgeons.  He obtained a post at the University of Glasgow where he performed his research on antisepsis during the years leading up to his seminal paper.  Much of the confirming work for his theories was carried out at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

In short, Lister found that the use of carbolic acid (phenol) before, during and after a surgery virtually eliminated infections, especially the dreaded gangrene infections, which killed many people who survived the physical shock of surgery. It took the observations of Lister coupled with the solid theoretical foundation from Pasteur for other physicians to incorporate the principle of antiseptic surgery into their work.

It is easy to imagine Lister’s amazement when he first heard of Pasteur’s theories and experiments.  He must have been thrilled to find a like-minded scientist toiling in the morass of disease causes, cures and prevention.  Lister’s seminal paper on antiseptic principles in surgery, curiously, did not mention Pasteur’s influence on his research.  However, he acknowledged in other writings his debt to the French bacteriologist.

“‘Permit me,’ wrote Lister, ‘to thank you cordially for having shown me the truth of the theory of germs of putrefaction by your brilliant researches, and for having given me the single principle which has made the antiseptic system a success.’” (De Kruif 1996)

In his paper, Lister described the use of full-strength solutions of carbolic acid.  However, there was a price to pay for not dying of post surgery infection.  Phenol can cause severe chemical burns through its “caustic action” when it is in contact with sensitive tissues. It must have been very painful for the patient even though it might have insured their survival.

A later, careful evaluation of the relative disinfecting power of many substances carried out by Robert Koch found, curiously, that carbolic acid was one of the weakest disinfectants studied.

Lister helped Pasteur by supporting his findings in France with practical examples in Scotland.  Lister’s confirmation of Pasteur’s theory was crucial because it gave other physicians simple tools to use that would determine if germs were causing infections in their patients.  A well-equipped laboratory and training in scientific methods was needed to confirm that spontaneous generation was a fraud or to demonstrate that fermentation was caused by yeast.  All a physician had to do was wash his hands between patients.  If he washed his hands, he would notice immediately that his women patients delivering children stopped dying in droves.  If he removed his bloody apron, applied an antiseptic, wore clean clothes and gloves and sterilized his instruments, surgery patients stopped dying of infections by the carload.

References: De Kruif, Paul. 1996. Microbe Hunters. New York City, N.Y.: Harcourt.

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

December 11, 1843: Birth of Robert Koch; 1913: Reservoir Dam Breaks…and other amazing stories

December 11, 1843:  Birth of Robert Koch. Robert Heinrich HermannKoch was born December 11, 1843, in the small city of Clausthal in what was then called Lower Saxony. The city is 120 miles south and a little east of Hamburg and about the same distance west and a little south of Berlin. American microbiologist Thomas D. Brock’s excellent 1999 biography of Koch chronicled his life, triumphs, and tragedies. Koch studied many diseases besides those that were waterborne. In addition to his innovative work in water bacteriology, he became world-famous for isolating and accurately describing the tubercle bacillus, the cause of anthrax disease (Bacillus anthracis), the cholera germ, and the genus of Staphylococcusorganisms that cause many infections in humans.

It was Robert Koch who revolutionized our understanding of microscopic organisms in water and their relation to specific diseases. Once again, tools were crucial to progress. Although Koch had basic microscopes, not everything could be described or investigated under a microscope. He needed methods to examine what made microorganisms grow and die. So, he and the scientists in his laboratory developed the tools that advanced the science of bacteriology, many of which are still in use today (i.e., standard plate count, coliform test).

In 1880, Koch changed from a German country doctor performing clever experiments in a spare bedroom to a professional researcher at the Imperial Health Office in Berlin.  It was not until December 1875 that he did his famous experiment with anthrax by injecting a rabbit with material from a diseased source and infecting the rabbit with the disease. He did not publish the paper describing his groundbreaking anthrax research until December 1876.

In Berlin, Koch realized that the key to advances in bacteriology was development of pure cultures of the organisms causing disease. He was aware of early work in which a limited number of bacteria were grown on the solid surface of potato slices. However, the human pathogens he was interested in studying did not grow very well on a potato substrate.

Robert Koch developed the tools that spawned the next generation of advances in bacteriology, and these advances provide a direct link to the two Jersey City trials. Without his breakthroughs, there would not have been any bacteriological data to determine if the Boonton Reservoir was providing pure and wholesome water to Jersey City.

In 1881, Koch published his seminal paper on bacterial growth on a solid medium. Called the “Bible of Bacteriology,” the paper (in German) described in some detail how Koch combined the liquid medium in which pathogens would grow with a solidifying agent—gelatin. The transparent nutrient gelatin could be fixed onto a transparent glass plate, and the use of a magnifying lens made counting the bacterial colonies that grew on the nutrient medium quite easy. Because of his research on tuberculosis, Koch received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905.

In 1908, Koch and his wife visited the United States as part of a world tour. In many ways, this trip was Koch’s victory lap. But the trip was the beginning of the end for Koch; he died two years later in Baden-Baden on May 27, 1910, at the age of 67.

References: 

Brock, Thomas D. 1999. Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology. Washington, D.C.: ASM Press.

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

December 11, 1913:  Reservoir Dam Breaks…and other amazing stories.

Reservoir Dam Breaks.Abilene, Tex.-A break has occurred in the dam at Syth Lake Reservoir, effecting a great gap through which 600,000,000 gallons of water escaped. A large section of the land bordering on the reservoir was badly flooded. The city of Abilene had to go without water and for that reason the electric power plant was forced to shut down its boilers. The manufacturing plants were also unable to operate.

Hydrants to be Standardized.Oak Point, Cal.-An important improvement was ordered for this district by Commissioner of Public Works E. M. Wilder. Wilder has directed that all hydrants be standardized so that the same size wrench or spanner may open any of the hydrants in this district. Recently many complaints have been filed on account of broken nuts on the hydrants, caused by the use of different kinds of wrenches.

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:24 (December 11, 1913): 800.

 

April 5, 1827: Birth of Joseph Lister

April 5, 1827: Birth of Joseph Lister. He was born in Upton House, Essex, England on April 5, 1827 and died on February 10, 1912. His life covered the entire span of the harshest debates over the germ theory of disease and its general acceptance.

Lister completed his medical education including attendance at the Royal College of Surgeons. He obtained a post at the University of Glasgow where he performed his research on antisepsis during the years leading up to his seminal paper. Much of the confirming work for his theories was carried out at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

In short, Lister found that the use of carbolic acid (phenol) before, during and after a surgery virtually eliminated infections, especially the dreaded gangrene infections, which killed many people who survived the physical shock of surgery. It took the observations of Lister coupled with the solid theoretical foundation from Pasteur for other physicians to incorporate the principle of antiseptic surgery into their work.

It is easy to imagine Lister’s amazement when he first heard of Pasteur’s theories and experiments. He must have been thrilled to find a like-minded scientist toiling in the morass of disease causes, cures and prevention. Lister’s seminal paper on antiseptic principles in surgery, curiously, did not mention Pasteur’s influence on his research. However, he acknowledged in other writings his debt to the French bacteriologist.

“‘Permit me,’ wrote Lister, ‘to thank you cordially for having shown me the truth of the theory of germs of putrefaction by your brilliant researches, and for having given me the single principle which has made the antiseptic system a success.’” (De Kruif 1996)

In his paper, Lister described the use of full-strength solutions of carbolic acid. However, there was a price to pay for not dying of post surgery infection. Phenol can cause severe chemical burns through its “caustic action” when it is in contact with sensitive tissues. It must have been very painful for the patient even though it might have insured their survival.

A later, careful evaluation of the relative disinfecting power of many substances carried out by Robert Koch found, curiously, that carbolic acid was one of the weakest disinfectants studied.

Lister helped Pasteur by supporting his findings in France with practical examples in Scotland. Lister’s confirmation of Pasteur’s theory was crucial because it gave other physicians simple tools to use that would determine if germs were causing infections in their patients. A well-equipped laboratory and training in scientific methods was needed to confirm that spontaneous generation was a fraud or to demonstrate that fermentation was caused by yeast. All a physician had to do was wash his hands between patients. If he washed his hands, he would notice immediately that his women patients delivering children stopped dying in droves. If he removed his bloody apron, applied an antiseptic, wore clean clothes and gloves and sterilized his instruments, surgery patients stopped dying of infections by the carload.

References: De Kruif, Paul. 1996. Microbe Hunters. New York City, N.Y.: Harcourt.

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

December 11, 1843: Birth of Robert Koch; December 11, 1913: Abolish Common Towel and Cup…and other amazing stories

December 11, 1843: Birth of Robert Koch “Robert Heinrich Hermann Koch (11 December 1843 – 27 May 1910) was a German physician and microbiologist. As the founder of modern bacteriology, he is known for his role in identifying the specific causative agents of tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax and for giving experimental support for the concept of infectious disease. In addition to his innovative studies on these diseases, which involved experimenting on humans, Koch created and improved laboratory technologies and techniques in the field of microbiology, and made key discoveries in public health. His research led to the creation of Koch’s postulates, a series of four generalized principles linking specific microorganisms to specific diseases that remain today the “gold standard” in medical microbiology. As a result of his groundbreaking research on tuberculosis, Koch received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905. The Robert Koch Institute is named in his honour.”

December 11, 1913: Municipal Journal Articles. Below are some interesting articles from over 100 years ago about water supply and water safety.

Abolish Common Towel and Cup. Harrisburg, Pa.-Common cups and towels have been banished by the State Board of Health. Anyone violating the new regulation is liable to a fine of $100. Glasses that have been used must be washed in boiling water, and towels must always be freshly laundered. Dr. Dixon, State Commissioner of Health, states that many communicable diseases can thereby be avoided.

Open Water System. South Orange, N. J.-The Village of South Orange, with its 6,000 inhabitants, is obtaining 1ts water supply from its new municipally-owned artesian wells and pumping plant. The ceremonies marking the opening of the system were in charge of Village President Francis Speir, Jr….The plant includes a number of artesian wells in the valley below First Mountain, from which the water is carried by large pipes to a reservoir on top of the mountain. The reservoir is hewn out of solid rock and holds 50,000,000 gallons.

Reservoir Dam Breaks. Abilene, Tex.-A break has occurred in the dam at Syth Lake Reservoir, effecting a great gap through which 600,000,000 gallons of water escaped. A large section of the land bordering on the reservoir was badly flooded. The city of Abilene had to go without water and for that reason the electric power plant was forced to shut down its boilers. The manufacturing plants were also unable to operate.

Hydrants to be Standardized. Oak Point, Cal.-An important improvement was ordered for this district by Commissioner of Public Works E. M. Wilder. Wilder has directed that all hydrants be standardized so that the same size wrench or spanner may open any of the hydrants in this district. Recently many complaints have been filed on account of broken nuts on the hydrants, caused by the use of different kinds of wrenches.

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:24(December 11, 1913): 800.

April 5, 1827: Birth of Joseph Lister

April 5, 1827: Birth of Joseph Lister. He was born in Upton House, Essex, England on April 5, 1827 and died on February 10, 1912. His life covered the entire span of the harshest debates over the germ theory of disease and its general acceptance.

Lister completed his medical education including attendance at the Royal College of Surgeons. He obtained a post at the University of Glasgow where he performed his research on antisepsis during the years leading up to his seminal paper. Much of the confirming work for his theories was carried out at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

In short, Lister found that the use of carbolic acid (phenol) before, during and after a surgery virtually eliminated infections, especially the dreaded gangrene infections, which killed many people who survived the physical shock of surgery. It took the observations of Lister coupled with the solid theoretical foundation from Pasteur for other physicians to incorporate the principle of antiseptic surgery into their work.

It is easy to imagine Lister’s amazement when he first heard of Pasteur’s theories and experiments. He must have been thrilled to find a like-minded scientist toiling in the morass of disease causes, cures and prevention. Lister’s seminal paper on antiseptic principles in surgery, curiously, did not mention Pasteur’s influence on his research. However, he acknowledged in other writings his debt to the French bacteriologist.

“‘Permit me,’ wrote Lister, ‘to thank you cordially for having shown me the truth of the theory of germs of putrefaction by your brilliant researches, and for having given me the single principle which has made the antiseptic system a success.’” (De Kruif 1996)

In his paper, Lister described the use of full-strength solutions of carbolic acid. However, there was a price to pay for not dying of post surgery infection. Phenol can cause severe chemical burns through its “caustic action” when it is in contact with sensitive tissues. It must have been very painful for the patient even though it might have insured their survival.

A later, careful evaluation of the relative disinfecting power of many substances carried out by Robert Koch found, curiously, that carbolic acid was one of the weakest disinfectants studied.

Lister helped Pasteur by supporting his findings in France with practical examples in Scotland. Lister’s confirmation of Pasteur’s theory was crucial because it gave other physicians simple tools to use that would determine if germs were causing infections in their patients. A well-equipped laboratory and training in scientific methods was needed to confirm that spontaneous generation was a fraud or to demonstrate that fermentation was caused by yeast. All a physician had to do was wash his hands between patients. If he washed his hands, he would notice immediately that his women patients delivering children stopped dying in droves. If he removed his bloody apron, applied an antiseptic, wore clean clothes and gloves and sterilized his instruments, surgery patients stopped dying of infections by the carload.

References: De Kruif, Paul. 1996. Microbe Hunters. New York City, N.Y.: Harcourt.

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

April 5, 1827: Birth of Joseph Lister

0405 Jospeh ListerApril 5, 1827: Birth of Joseph Lister. He was born in Upton House, Essex, England on April 5, 1827 and died on February 10, 1912. His life covered the entire span of the harshest debates over the germ theory of disease and its general acceptance.

Lister completed his medical education including attendance at the Royal College of Surgeons. He obtained a post at the University of Glasgow where he performed his research on antisepsis during the years leading up to his seminal paper. Much of the confirming work for his theories was carried out at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

In short, Lister found that the use of carbolic acid (phenol) before, during and after a surgery virtually eliminated infections, especially the dreaded gangrene infections, which killed many people who survived the physical shock of surgery. It took the observations of Lister coupled with the solid theoretical foundation from Pasteur for other physicians to incorporate the principle of antiseptic surgery into their work.

It is easy to imagine Lister’s amazement when he first heard of Pasteur’s theories and experiments. He must have been thrilled to find a like-minded scientist toiling in the morass of disease causes, cures and prevention. Lister’s seminal paper on antiseptic principles in surgery, curiously, did not mention Pasteur’s influence on his research. However, he acknowledged in other writings his debt to the French bacteriologist.

“‘Permit me,’ wrote Lister, ‘to thank you cordially for having shown me the truth of the theory of germs of putrefaction by your brilliant researches, and for having given me the single principle which has made the antiseptic system a success.’” (De Kruif 1996)

In his paper, Lister described the use of full-strength solutions of carbolic acid. However, there was a price to pay for not dying of post surgery infection. Phenol can cause severe chemical burns through its “caustic action” when it is in contact with sensitive tissues. It must have been very painful for the patient even though it might have insured their survival.

A later, careful evaluation of the relative disinfecting power of many substances carried out by Robert Koch found, curiously, that carbolic acid was one of the weakest disinfectants studied.

Lister helped Pasteur by supporting his findings in France with practical examples in Scotland. Lister’s confirmation of Pasteur’s theory was crucial because it gave other physicians simple tools to use that would determine if germs were causing infections in their patients. A well-equipped laboratory and training in scientific methods was needed to confirm that spontaneous generation was a fraud or to demonstrate that fermentation was caused by yeast. All a physician had to do was wash his hands between patients. If he washed his hands, he would notice immediately that his women patients delivering children stopped dying in droves. If he removed his bloody apron, applied an antiseptic, wore clean clothes and gloves and sterilized his instruments, surgery patients stopped dying of infections by the carload.

References: De Kruif, Paul. 1996. Microbe Hunters. New York City, N.Y.: Harcourt.

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.