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Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station designated as a Milestones in Microbiology site

Washington, DC -- October 23, 2013 -- The Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, site of Herbert William Conn's Research Laboratory at the Connecticut Agricultural College (later the University of Connecticut, Storrs) has been named a Milestones in Microbiology site by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). A dedication ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, October 26, 2013, at 4:30 pm EST in the University of Connecticut, Storrs Biology/Physics Building Foyer. The ASM Milestones in Microbiology program recognizes institutions and scientists that have made significant contributions toward advancing the science of microbiology.

A symposium, "H. W. Conn's Golden Age of Bacteriology Becomes the New Golden Age of Microbial Biology," precedes the dedication ceremony from 1:30 -- 4:30 pm. During the ceremony, Stanley Maloy, Past President of the ASM, will present an official Milestones in Microbiology plaque on behalf of the Society.

"Herbert Conn played a central role in our understanding of the importance of microbes in agriculture, and how they impact public health -- problems that remain as relevant today as when he worked on them over a hundred years ago," says Maloy. "And, he did not simply publish these discoveries in academic journals for other scientists, but he lucidly explained the importance of microbes to the public as well."

Herbert W. Conn's international fame in dairy bacteriology began during his tenure as the bacteriologist at the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station on the campus of the Connecticut Agricultural College (1888-1906). His research on the formation of butter and the causes of milk spoilage led to advances in bacterial cultivation and dairy foodstuff production. His findings served as the basis for the "Butter Exhibition" at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, which allowed the public to taste flavors of butters made using different bacteria.

Starting in 1892, Conn served as "Lecturer on Dairy Bacteriology" at the Connecticut Agricultural College and so established the first formal instruction in Bacteriology at what was to become the University of Connecticut. After Conn stepped down from his instructional duties at the College in 1906, his laboratory assistant and former student William Esten continued in Conn's footsteps and became Professor of Dairy Bacteriology at the College.

Conn became a leading advocate for public health laws as a result of his work, and in 1905 was appointed Director of the new Connecticut State Board of Health Laboratory, one of the first such bodies in the United States. He founded the American Academy of Public Health, served on the New York Commission on Milk Standards, and was Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Biological Laboratory from 1889-1897. Conn was also an accomplished educator at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he founded the Biology Department and served as its head until his death in 1917.

While working at the Agricultural Station, Conn collaborated with Drs. A. C. Abbott (University of Pennsylvania) and E. O. Jordan (University of Chicago) to found the Society of American Bacteriologists (later the American Society for Microbiology). At the inaugural meeting of the Society held at Yale University in 1899, Conn presented research that reflected his achievements at the Station. His presentation, "Natural Varieties of Bacteria," included an exhibit of cultures of a highly variable Micrococcus which he had isolated from milk.

Conn wrote many important papers for professional scientific publications, and also wrote and lectured extensively for the general public about microbes, evolution and public health. His popular 1897 book The Story of Germ Life inspired Mark Twain's unfinished story, 3,000 Years Among the Microbes.


Contact: Garth Hogan
American Society for Microbiology

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