One Hundred Years and Still Going Strong

The Eastern Pennsylvania Branch of the American Society for Microbiology – Established 1920

In 1917, the Society of American Bacteriologists approved the creation of local Branches to increase communication within the Society. The Eastern PA Branch can trace its origin to 24 February 1920. On this date, Dr. David H. Bergey invited a group of individuals interested in bacteriology and pathology to attend a meeting in his office on the second floor of the Laboratory of Hygiene, at the University of Pennsylvania (Thirty-fourth Street between Spruce and Walnut Streets).  The purpose of the meeting was to organize the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Society of American Bacteriologists. At the subsequent March meeting of the same group, Dr. C. P. Brown presented a constitution and a set of by-laws that were eventually approved by the National Society. In 1960, the official name of the National Society was changed to the American Society for Microbiology, and in 1961 the name of the Branch was officially changed to The Eastern Pennsylvania Branch of the ASM.  In recognition of the importance of these events, the ASM designated the Laboratory of Hygiene as an official Milestone in Microbiology Site in 2009 and recognized Dr. Bergey on the plaque which is now located where the building once stood. The Eastern Pennsylvania is the oldest continually active Branch of the ASM. It has held monthly meetings every year since its founding in 1920 despite two World Wars and many changes in the field of Bacteriology-Microbiology. There is every indication that it will survive for another one hundred years.

Pre-Branch History of Bacteriology in Philadelphia

In the 19th century, Philadelphia was recognized as the premier center of medicine in the United States. This resulted in a relatively large number of Philadelphia medical school graduates who traveled to Europe, especially Germany and France, to complete their education. Many of these young physicians were excited to learn about the recent developments in pathology and bacteriology that were unfolding in Europe and brought that excitement back to Philadelphia. Therefore, the field of bacteriology developed early in Philadelphia. In 1865, following the Civil War, hygiene was added to the medical school curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania opening the way for bacteriology to increase in importance. In 1876, John Tyson gave a series of lectures in bacteriology at Penn. After 1880, Koch’s work with tuberculosis stimulated significant interest throughout the United States and greatly increased the number of Philadelphians pursuing studies in bacteriology in Europe and in the United States. In later years, with the presence of five medical schools and several major pharmaceutical and vaccine companies, Bacteriology-Microbiology was destined to play a major role in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas. 

The Eastern PA Branch of the ASM has played an important role in serving the educational and organizational needs of this scientific community. The Branch continues to be one of the oldest and most active Branches in the county. The Philadelphia area continues to attract top microbiologists who participate in Branch activities.

History of the Eastern PA Branch-ASM (click on links below):

The accounts in this section came from several sources. The accounts from 1912-1967 are based on a talk presented by the late Dr. Harry Morton at the December 1984 Branch Meeting with some updates and modifications made in subsequent years. Additionally, the periods 1967 to 2020 were written by James A. Poupard, Branch Archives Committee.

1912-1920 The Microbiological Club
1920-1936 The Old Guard Era
1936-1967 The Next Generation
1967-1999 Division-Experimentation-Unification
2000-2020 The Electronic Age 

Additional Historical Material (click on links below)
List of Branch Presidents (1920-Present)
The Distinguished Branch Member Lectureship 1996-2006
The Stuart Mudd Memorial Lecture Series 1976-1995
History of Branch Sponsored Symposia 1969-present
Additional Reading- Branch History and Early Philadelphia Bacteriologists
Branch Emeritus Members
Branch Members with 40+ Years of ASM Membership (as of 2020)
Member Obituaries
Ruth E. Miller- First Female President of our Branch and Her Female Successors

Branch Related Chronologies (click on links below)
Chronology of the Eastern PA Branch ASM, 1920 to Present
Chronology of Bacteriology/Microbiology at the Jefferson Medical College-Thomas Jefferson University, 1849-1972
Chronology of Bacteriology/Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania-The Formative Years: 1851-1900
History of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania – Images