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Alexander, Hattie Elizabeth (05 April 1901–24 June 1968), microbiologist and pediatrician, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of William Bain Alexander, a merchant, and Elsie May Townsend, both of Scottish ancestry. The family remained in Baltimore throughout Alexander’s relatively happy and comfortable childhood. She attended Baltimore’s Western High School for Girls prior to enrolling in Goucher College, to which she won a partial scholarship. While at Goucher, her enthusiasm for a variety of sports—hockey, baseball, basketball—exceeded that for academics, and she was an unimpressive student. Nevertheless, she exhibited marked, though largely unapplied, skill in Dr. Jessie King’s bacteriology class, and fellow students in the Goucher yearbook declared that “ambition fires her; hygiene claims her; kindness portrays her.”...

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Bunting, Mary (10 July 1910–21 January 1998), college educator and microbiologist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest child of Henry Andrews Ingraham, a lawyer, and Mary Shotwell Ingraham, a community activist. Her well-educated parents were committed to bringing culture to their children, along with a love of the outdoors. Family life was close and satisfying for Polly (so called to avoid confusion with her mother), who appreciated her father’s interests in art and literature and her mother’s community commitments, including as a member of the New York City Board of Higher Education and the national president of the Young Women’s Christian Association....

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Burkholder, Paul Rufus (01 February 1903–11 August 1972), microbiologist, was born in Orrstown, Pennsylvania, the son of William Rankin Burkholder, a minister of the United Brethren church, and Mary Ellen Schubert. He attended high school in nearby Chambersburg and in 1920 matriculated at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Coming from a family of modest means, he paid for his education by working in the campus library when school was in session and as a farm laborer in the summer. After receiving his A.B. in 1924, he enrolled in Cornell University and studied plant physiology. He supported himself by surveying phytoplankton in the Cayuga Lake basin as part of a geographical and biological study of New York’s watersheds for the State Conservation Department; he received his Ph.D. in botany in 1929....

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Dubos, René Jules (20 February 1901–20 February 1982), microbiologist and author, was born in Saint Brice, France, a farming community north of Paris, the son of Georges Andre Dubos, a butcher, and Adeline De Bloedt. Dubos’s parents soon moved farther into the countryside to the tiny village of Henonville, where René attended a one-room school until the family moved to Paris in 1914. The family’s economic uncertainties worsened when his father died after serving in World War I. During his childhood Dubos suffered from episodes of rheumatic fever, which led to the cardiac damage common before antibiotics. These severe illnesses, together with extremely poor eyesight, restricted his youthful activities and had a permanent impact on his life....

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Alice C. Evans Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114793).

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Evans, Alice Catherine (29 January 1881–05 September 1975), microbiologist, was born in Neath, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William Howell Evans, a farmer, surveyor, and teacher, and Anne B. Evans, a teacher. Alice Evans taught school from 1901 to 1905 before going on for further education herself. She took a two-year nature study course specifically geared toward rural teachers and organized by Cornell University, where she then completed her bachelor of science degree in 1909. She went on to receive a master of science degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1910 and later also did graduate work at George Washington University and the University of Chicago....

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Koplik, Henry (28 October 1858–30 April 1927), pediatrician, educator, and microbiologist, was born in New York City, the son of Abraham S. Koplik and Rosalie K. Prager. Koplik received his undergraduate education at the City College of New York, where he obtained his bachelor of arts degree in 1878. In 1881 Koplik completed his medical school studies at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in the City of New York. The following year, 1882, he served his internship at the Bellevue Hospital of New York City....

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Novy, Frederick George (09 December 1864–08 August 1957), microbiologist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Joseph Novy, a master tailor, and Frances Janota, a milliner. Novy vividly remembered the Chicago fire of 1871, which started a few doors from their home. His love of science began early; while attending public high schools in Chicago, he held a part-time job at the public library to earn money for a microscope and a set of chemistry books. In his free time he read avidly in history and science, botanized, ran experiments in his home chemistry laboratory, and attended meetings of the Chicago Microscopical Club. In 1882 his parents moved to Ann Arbor to enable him to study chemistry with Albert B. Prescott at the University of Michigan. There the studious Novy excelled, taking every chemistry course the university offered and doing special projects. By his senior year he was substituting for the professor. In 1886 he received his B.S. degree and accepted a job at the university as an assistant in organic chemistry. The following year, he received his M.S. in chemistry for a thesis published as ...

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Poindexter, Hildrus Augustus (10 May 1901–20 April 1987), physician, microbiologist, and public health specialist, was born on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Fred Poindexter and Luvenia Gilberta Clarke, tenant farmers. After attending the normal (teacher training) department of Swift Memorial College, a Presbyterian school for blacks in Rogersville, Tennessee (1916–1920), he entered Lincoln University (Pa.) and graduated with an A.B. cum laude in 1924. Also in 1924 he married Ruth Viola Grier, with whom he would have one child, a daughter. He attended Dartmouth Medical School for two years before earning an M.D. at Harvard University in 1929, an A.M. in bacteriology at Columbia University in 1930, a Ph.D. in bacteriology and parasitology at Columbia in 1932, and an M.P.H. from Columbia in 1937....

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Smith, Theobald (31 July 1859–10 December 1934), microbiologist and comparative pathologist, was born in Albany, New York, the son of German immigrants Phillip Schmitt, a tailor, and Theresa Kexel. Smith spoke German at home and became an accomplished pianist, both talents that profoundly eased his later life. He married Lilian Hillyer Egleston in 1888; they had three children....

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Waksman, Selman Abraham (22 July 1888–16 August 1973), microbiologist, was born in Novaia-Priluka, Russia (now Ukraine), the son of Jacob Waksman, a fabric weaver and landowner, and Fradia London, a merchant. As a teenager, Waksman became fascinated with life processes and sought a university education. To qualify for entrance to a university, Waksman first needed to obtain a Gymnasium certificate. In an attempt to overcome the quota for Jewish pupils and the lack of sufficient funds to attend a Gymnasium, Waksman’s family engaged tutors to prepare him to take a Gymnasium certificate examination, which he passed but without obtaining the silver or gold medals usually required of Jewish students who aspired to go to college in Russia. Following his mother’s death in 1909 and his father’s remarriage shortly thereafter, Waksman went abroad in order to continue his studies and begin a new life....