Thesis ID: CBB001561003

The Beginnings of Bacteriology in American Medicine: Works of Frederick Novy, 1888--1933 (2012)


Kazanjian, Powel H. (Author)

University of Michigan
Howell, Joel D.

Publication Date: 2012
Edition Details: Advisor: Howell, Joel D.
Physical Details: 468 pp.
Language: English

Frederick Novy (1864-1957) was a leader among a new breed of full-time bacteriologists at American medical schools in the 1890s. Historians have not provided comprehensive accounts of these early bacteriology researchers. I describe Novy's research and educational activities at the University of Michigan Medical School from 1891-1933, using them as a window to examine meanings of bacteriology in medicine, medical education and American society. In his medical school laboratory, Novy focused on designing innovative technology to visualize microbes and their behavior. Novy also used a makeshift bacteriology laboratory to define plague's unusual behavior, although he could not find a biological basis for its aberrancy or convince citizens to adopt anti-plague actions. In addition, Novy developed the first full semester laboratory-based bacteriology course in America in 1889. Novy's activities do not conform to traditional characterizations of early bacteriology in America as a merely practical application of European-derived theories. What can be learned from Novy's composite activities at a time when laboratory science in medicine was new? His focus was on technical objectivity--devising novel instruments as a means of gaining an accurate understanding of microbes and their behavior. Through his scientific conduct, disinterested motives, and teachings, he embodied a code of ethics--a duty to search for objective truths above other commitments, whether they be practical application or personal gain. Novy intended to legitimate pure laboratory science, with disciplined hard work, search for truths, and moral code, by establishing noble "spirit" as a norm of behavior for all medical students, researchers and practitioners alike. Novy's colleagues and students viewed his norm of "pure" science as adding legitimacy to a medical profession in need of certainty. Novy's students saw his effort as uplifting the overall quality of medical education. The meanings of Novy's science in American society can be viewed through the novel Arrowsmith , a representation of Novy's activities as told by his student, Paul de Kruif. Sinclair Lewis, who collaborated with de Kruif to write Arrowsmith , offered laboratory science as having potential to provide a resonant truth and substance to an early 20th century American society portrayed as bereft of meaning.


Description Cited in ProQuest Diss. & Thes. (2012). ProQuest Doc. ID 1026847861.

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Authors & Contributors
Hawgood, Barbara J.
Plaut, G. S.
Dolman, Claude E.
Wolfe, Richard J.
Platt, Harold L.
Gossel, Patricia Peck
Journal of Medical Biography
Social History of Medicine
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University
New York University
Rutgers University Press
Discipline formation
Public health
Infectious diseases
Plaut, Hugo Carl
Smith, Theobald
Pasteur, Louis
Koch, Robert
Haffkine, Waldemar Mordecai
Calmette, Albert
United States
Great Britain
Chicago (Illinois, U.S.)
Manchester (England)
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
American Medical Association
Rockefeller Foundation

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