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This page is devoted to the history of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Maryland Branch and to the contribution of its members to the world of microbiology.  The history of the Maryland Branch began with the formation in Baltimore of the Maryland Society of Bacteriology in 1931.  Its first President was William W. Ford of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, who served through 1933.  In 1931, J. Howard Brown of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was President of the Society of American Bacteriologists (SAB) and concurrently the Vice President of the Maryland Society; he became President of the Maryland Society in 1934.  The Maryland Society of Bacteriology was independent of the SAB until it became one of its branches in 1936.  The Maryland Society sponsored the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Society of American Bacteriologists (SAB) in 1931, which was held in Baltimore, December 28-30.  The General Chairman of the Program Committee for that meeting was another charter member of the local society, Barnett L. Cohen, also of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who later served as President of the Maryland Branch in 1939.  

In 1934, provision was made by the SAB for local Branches to be represented on the council of the SAB.  This ruling stimulated the growth of local Branches and in 1935, under the leadership of President Clinton L. Ewing of the Baltimore City Health Department, eleven members of the Maryland Society petitioned the SAB council for local branch status; this was granted along with the petitions of six additional local organizations (Historical Doc02, see page 4).  Branch status was granted in 1936, at which time the number of local branches increased to 12 nationwide. J. Howard Brown was appointed the Maryland Branch's first councilor.

The membership roll of the local Branch carried over 100 names in 1935.  Many were to become well known to microbiologists worldwide.  Some notable members who were active in the Branch during its first decade or so would include: W. Mansfield Clark, who helped develop and standardize the concept of pH and who served as President of the SAB in 1933; Einar Leifson who developed media for isolation and identification of enteric bacilli; Perrin Long who did early sulfonamides research; Isabelle Schaub, who along with M. Kathleen Foley published in 1940 a text entitled "Schaub and Foley", which gave rise ultimately to Bailey and Scott’s "Diagnostic Microbiology"; Lloyd Felton who did early work on the pathogenicity of pneumococci; John Brewer who produced many inventions for the diagnostic microbiology laboratory including thioglycolate medium, anaerobic jars, and autoclave sterilization monitors; Harriette D. Vera, an expert on the industrial production and sterility control on a wide range of bacteriologic media; Martin Frobisher, who did early research on natural immunity; C.A. Perry who proposed standard training procedures for medical technologists; Justina Hill, an expert on sexually transmitted diseases; Harry Eagle, who performed ground-breaking work on tissue culture, sexually transmitted diseases, and African sleeping sickness, and was President of the SAB in 1958.  The SAB changed its name to American Society for Microbiology in 1960.

The Maryland Branch was very active in the decade from February 1935 to December 1945.  At least 18 meetings were held, mostly dinner meetings at various restaurants throughout the Baltimore area.  In the early years, members were notified by "penny post cards" which informed them of the date, place, program and cost of the meal (Historical Doc03).  Streptococci received most of the attention at these meetings, followed by the enteric organisms with most of the attention being on the typhoid bacillus; Einar Leifson presented his research on sodium selenite as an enrichment medium for the isolation of Salmonella and Shigella species on February 11, 1936 (Historical Doc04).  Industrial fermentations, milk and water sanitation and antimicrobial agents also received attention as did the complement fixation test for syphilis.  At the meeting on May 9, 1939, W. Barry Wood, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, presented the results of his studies on antibody production in pneumococcal pneumonia treated with antiserum and sulfapyridine (Historical Doc04).  A unique meeting occurred on April 17, 1940, when the manager of a local theater invited members of the Branch to a preview of the Hollywood movie on Paul Ehrlich starring Paul Muni entitled "Magic Bullets".  In a preamble, Justina Hill, President of the Branch in 1936, presented the highlights of Ehrlich's career (Historical Doc04).

The Maryland Branch remained active during the years of WWII under the guidance of such individuals as Barnett L. Cohen, C.A. Perry, Isabelle Schaub, Kathleen Foley, John Brewer, Harriette Vera, Theodore J. Carski, Martin Frobisher, Elizabeth Petran, Roger Reid and Thomas Turner among others.  By the end of WWII, exciting subjects such as antibiotics and electron microscopy were waiting to be explored; the latter was revealing new and provocative information about microbial anatomy and about bacterial viruses, i.e., bacteriophages (Historical Doc05).

The year 1950 was the golden jubilee year of the SAB. Barnett Cohen was President and also the archivist, as he had been since 1935.  For that meeting, which was held in Baltimore on May 14-18, he had prepared the Chronicles of the Society's first half century.  It was printed and presented to the SAB and its members by the Williams and Wilkens Company and the Waverly Press as a memento of the meeting.  In the 1950s, the Branch meetings seemed to taper off somewhat; however, through the efforts of dedicated members such as Donald Shay, Theodore J. Carski, Rudolph Allgeier, Baxter McLaughin, Edward Herbst, Merrill J. Snyder, Paul Rohde, J.M. Joseph and Harold Glassman, it remained an active and forceful organization providing a rostrum for established scientists as well as graduate students and others to present their research for member's information and discussion.

​Throughout its history, the Maryland Branch has fared well because of the abundant contributions from members of surrounding academic, city, state, federal and industrial departmental laboratories engaged in a wide range of microbiologic practice and research.  Some of the specific sources of past contributions include the following: the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland State Health Laboratories, Baltimore Biological Laboratories (BBL) - now part of Becton, Dickinson and Company, and the Laboratories of Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland (now the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID).


Citations for the above-mentioned sources must include the efforts of the founders of the Maryland Society, which became a Maryland Branch of the SAB in 1936.  Members from the Johns Hopkins Schools were highly represented in those early days as previously noted.  These schools continued to be very active as sources of members who support the Maryland Branch's programs and provide leadership.  The following have served as Branch President: Patricia Charache, 1985; William Merz, 1987; Ray Arthur, 1990 and James Dick, 1993.

The University of Maryland School of Dentistry's Department of Microbiology has been very active at both the local and national levels.  Donald E. Shay, who founded this department in 1945 and served as its chair until retirement, was President in 1952.  He served the ASM as secretary for seven years, 1967-1974.  Following his retirement, he chaired the Archives Committee for ten years leading to the establishment of the Center for the History of Microbiology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County; the Center was dedicated in 1991.  Others who served from the Dental School as Presidents of the Branch included: Earl F. Becker, 1970; George N. Krywolap, 1975; William Falkler, 1978; Robert J. Sydiskis, 1979; Robert K. Nauman, 1984, who also served the ASM as Chairman of the Membership Committee for nine years (1984-1993); and Henry R. Williams, 1988.  The University of Maryland School of Medicine supplied the following members as Presidents of the Branch: Edward Herbst, 1958; Merrill J. Snyder, 1959, who also compiled the newsletter for many years; Andrew Smith, 1961; and David Johnson, 1982.  One of the outstanding members from the Maryland School of Medicine was Gardner Middlebrook, world renowned for his development of media for the growth and identification of Mycobacteria.  Salman Siddiqi worked closely with Middlebrook on mycobacterial liquid culture development, as did Joseph Libonati.

The Maryland State Health Laboratories have always given strong support to the Maryland Branch. Elizabeth Petran was President in 1946, as was J.M. Joseph in 1962.  He also served as secretary of the ASM following Don Shay's term and Chairman of the ASM Membership Committee.  Joseph Libonati was President of the Branch in 1973; he also served as Councilor.

BBL became the Becton Dickinson Microbiology Systems business segment and is now known as BD Life Sciences – Diagnostic Systems, and has always provided in large measure to the Branch's membership and in 1995, it composed 34% of the roll.  Twelve of their members served as president from 1931-1995, and several more since then: Harriette Vera, 1943; Theodore J. Carski, 1953; Paul Rohde, 1960; Theodore R. Carski, 1968; Charles Griffin, 1971; Daniel Allgeier, 1976; Lynn Russell, 1980-1981; George Evans, 1986; Teresa Brashears, 1991; Paul Goldenbaum, 1992; David Power, 1994; and Patricia Farmer, 1995. BBL was founded in 1935 by Theodore J. Carski and Einar Leifson who were at that time employees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Theodore J. Carski served the ASM as treasurer for several years beginning in 1970.  Special note is accorded to Paul Rohde, who joined BBL in 1948, became known as “Mr. BBL” for his management of customer service and training, and was devoted to the Branch.

Members from the laboratories at Fort Detrick were highly supportive of the Branch despite their distance from Baltimore, which required about a 100 mile round trip per meeting.  Several served as President: Harold Glassman, 1963; James Duff, 1966; Sidney Silverman, 1969; Joseph Lemski, 1974; Edgar (Bud) Larson, 1977; and Anna-Johnson Winegar, 1989. Riley D. Housewright was Scientific Director at Fort Detrick, 1956-1972, and in 1967 served as President of the ASM.  From 1981-1984, he was ASM's Executive Director during which time he directed the reorganization and modernization of ASM's headquarters administration in Washington, D.C. 

It is of interest to note that throughout the years, the Maryland Branch had two sets of father-son presidential combinations: (1) Rudolph Allgeier, 1955, and Daniel Allgeier, 1976, twenty-one years apart; and (2) Theodore J. Carski, 1953, and Theodore R. Carski, 1968, fifteen years apart.  To be president of a viable scientific organization such as the Maryland Branch requires dedication and diligence.  Realizing this, Jerome Abramson (FDA), Branch President in 1983, introduced the practice of presenting "Certificates (or Plaques) of Acknowledgement" honoring outgoing presidents for their years of dedicated service to the Branch.  The honor was made retroactive to include living ex-presidents in so far as they could be contacted.

The Maryland Branch has a long history of acknowledging local microbiologists for their exemplary work.  The Branch offers four awards, including the Barnett Cohen Award presented to professional microbiologists in recognition of their contributions, devotion, and interest in promoting the science of microbiology.  This award was established in 1954 in memory of Dr. Cohen, who was Maryland Branch President in 1939.  The Richard S. Schwalbe Award was established in 2000 to honor the memory of Dr. Schwalbe, Maryland Branch President in 1998, and is presented to outstanding microbiologists who possess the professional qualities embodied by Dr. Schwalbe: superior performance in clinical microbiology, willingness to train and share knowledge, scientific curiosity, and a constant striving for excellence.  Finally, two J. Howard Brown Awards are presented annually, one each for an outstanding Graduate student and an outstanding Undergraduate student based on research abstracts submitted to the annual Branch poster session that are worthy of recognition in the field of microbiology.  This award program was established in 1954 in memory of Dr. Brown, Maryland Branch President in 1934.


Beginning April 23, 1960, the Maryland Branch operated under a constitution that was subsequently revised five times, in December 1961, March 1964, May 1972, April 1981, and April 1987.  In response to changes in the Federal tax code regarding reporting obligations of non-profit organizations, the constitution with its subset of bylaws was amended in November 2009 to permit the Branch to pursue incorporation and then non-profit tax status with the State of Maryland and federal government.  The resulting non-stock, non-profit corporation is formally titled the American Society for Microbiology, Maryland Branch Ltd.  The constitution with bylaws was completely replaced in February 2010 with an expanded set of bylaws, as is the current convention for such organizations.  The bylaws were again revised in 2018 to eliminate the position of Alternate Councilor such that the position of Councilor would be in agreement with 2016 changes to the National ASM governance structure. 


The demographics of branch membership has changed since 1990 with the introduction of the internet, longer travel times to and from meetings, and changes in reimbursement policies of many employers.  The Branch has responded by attracting members from smaller academic institutions and private employers in the area, and focusing on increasing student participation.  These efforts are extensions of the Career Guidance Committee established in 1964 by C.A. Perry and George S. Warner, Branch Presidents in 1940 and 1967, respectively, to promote the “recruitment and training of laboratory people”.  Currently the Maryland Branch has an active membership that enjoys the scientific, educational and networking opportunities afforded by at least three dinner-seminars with invited speakers per year in addition to the annual spring poster session, open to members and non-members alike, which features awards for the best student presentations.  These four meetings are held at different sites throughout the Baltimore region.  In recent years the fall meeting has been held at the UMBC Kuhn Library, the repository of the national ASM Archives, and includes a display of selected items from the Archives.  There is every reason to believe that the Branch, surrounded as it is by many sources of microbiological talent, will continue to persevere into the future as it has in the past.  


This history of the Maryland Branch from 1931-1995 was written in 1995 by Dr. Andrew G. Smith, Branch Archivist and director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory of the University of Maryland Medical Center for over 40 years.  It was written for the ASM's Centennial Heritage Committee and covers the first 64 years of the Branch's activities and identifies many of its members who helped create and maintain it as a viable scientific organization.  The history was updated by Past-President Richard Pfeltz with input from the Board of Directors in 2018 and again in 2019.

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