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In this new series, we will be spotlighting scientists of the past and present who have gone against the consensus or made discoveries that were trivialized, unnoticed, or outright ignored by their peers. Eventually, these pioneers’ contributions were celebrated by the scientific community.
Alice Catherine Evans (1881-1975) was a pioneering American microbiologist and epidemiologist who made significant contributions to the field of medical science. She is best known for her research on the bacterium Brucella, a microorganism that causes brucellosis, a disease that affects both animals and humans.
Evans was born in 1881 in a small town in Pennsylvania, where she grew up on a farm. She attended a local school, and after graduating, she enrolled in the State Normal School at Millersville, where she studied biology and chemistry. After completing her studies, she taught in a rural school for a few years before enrolling in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1911, Evans earned her PhD in microbiology, becoming one of the first women in the United States to do so. After completing her PhD, she took a job at the Hygienic Laboratory (now the National Institutes of Health) in Washington, D.C. There, she began her research on Brucella, a bacterium that had been known to cause infections in animals for many years, but had not been well studied in humans.
Through her research, Evans discovered that Brucella was not only responsible for causing infections in animals, but also in humans. She also found that the microorganism was transmitted through the consumption of contaminated milk and meat products. Evans’ research was the first to establish the connection between brucellosis and the consumption of contaminated dairy products, and it led to changes in the way milk was produced and regulated in the United States.
In addition to her research on Brucella, Evans also made important contributions to the field of epidemiology. She was one of the first scientists to use statistical methods to study the spread of disease, and her work helped to establish the field of epidemiology as a scientific discipline.
Evans was also a strong advocate for the inclusion of women in science, and she worked tirelessly to promote the participation of women in the field of microbiology. She was a founding member of the American Society for Microbiology, and she served as the society’s first female president in 1923.
Despite her many achievements, Evans faced significant obstacles throughout her career as a woman in a male-dominated field. She was often passed over for promotions and denied the recognition and funding that her male colleagues received. However, she persevered, and her contributions to the field of medical science have had a lasting impact.
Alice Catherine Evans passed away in 1975, leaving behind a legacy of pioneering work in the field of microbiology and epidemiology. Her research on Brucella and her contributions to the field of epidemiology have helped to improve the health and well-being of people all over the world, and her work continues to inspire future generations of scientists.
WORDS: Scientific Inquirer Staff.
IMAGE CREDIT: National Photo Company Collection.