Biography of Theobald Smith
Theobald Smith was the most distinguished early American microbiologist and probably the leading comparative pathologist in the world. Smith's discovery (1889) of the protozoan that causes Texas cattle fever (species Pyrosoma bigeminum [now called Babesia bigemina]) and his demonstration (1889-93) of its transmission by the cattle tick paved the way for control of malaria, yellow fever, and other insect-borne diseases. Smith also was the first to clearly differentiate the bovine from human tubercle bacilli, facilitating the work of Robert Koch.
The son of German immigrants, Theobald Smith was born in Albany, New York, and educated at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., where he received the Ph.D. degree with honours in 1881, and Albany Medical School, where he headed the graduating class of 1883. He recognized, however, that his interests lay more in scientific investigation than in medicine. With the help of a friend, the microscopist Simon H. Gage (born 1851) he obtained an assistantship with Daniel Elmer Salmon (1850-1914), chief of the veterinary division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington. Here, his developing enthusiasm for the study of infectious diseases was stimulated by the discoveries of his peers Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich, in Germany. Hawing grown up in a German-speaking home, Theobald Smith, originally registered as Theobald Schmitt, had no problems reading the original reports of Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich. From 1886 to 1895
Six months later he became inspector of the new Bureau of Animal Industry, established by Congress under Salmon’s charge to combat bovine pleuropneumonia, glanders, infectious disease of swine, and Texas cattle fever. Smith taught himself Koch’s culture-plate methods and improved on them. Smith also was the first to clearly differentiate the bovine from human tubercle bacilli, facilitating Koch's work.
Theobald Smith became the pre-eminent pioneer in American microbiology. In 1889, he discovered the protozoan parasite, Babesia, responsible for Texas Fever of cattle, and the role of ticks in its transmission. He was responsible for identifying the causes of several other animal diseases and for raising important public health issues, by demonstrating the contamination of the Hudson river by faecal bacteria. Smith declined the position of director of The Rockefeller Institute, at its founding in 1901.
Smith’s international recognition was hastened by his publications in German journals. In 1891 he was promoted to chief of the division of animal pathology of the Bureau of Animal Industry, but Daniel Elmer Salmon sought unduly to divert credit for Smith’s work to himself and to other veterinarians. For example, Frederick Lucius Kilborne (1858-1936), superintendent of the experimental farm, was over generously made co-author of the Texas fever monograph.
Smith taught at Columbian University, Washington, D.C., now George Washington University, and was professor of comparative pathology at Harvard University from 1896 to 1915.
After working for several years in Washington and at Harvard Medical School, he joined the Princeton laboratories of the Rockefeller Institute in 1915, where he remained as director of the Department of Animal Pathology until his official retirement in 1929. He was succeeded by Carl Ten Broeck (born 1885), a long-time associate. Smith continued working at Princeton as member emeritus of the Rockefeller Institute.
- Great discoveries, which give a new direction to currents of thought and research, are not, as a rule, gained by the accumulation of vast quantities of figures and statistics. These are apt to stifle and asphyxiate and they usually follow rather than precede discovery. The great discoveries are due to the eruption of genius into a closely related field, and the transfer of the precious knowledge there found to his own domain.
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1915, 172: 121.
Research is fundamentally a state of mind involving continual re-examination of the doctrines and axioms upon which current thought and action are based. It is, therefore, critical of existing practices.
American Journal of Medical Sciences, 1929, 178: 741.
The joy of research must be found in doing since every other harvest is uncertain.
Letter to Dr. E. B. Krumbhaar, October 11, 1933.
Quoted in Journal of Bacteriology, 1934, 27: 19.
- The Diagnostic and Prognostic Value of the Bacillus Tuberculosis in the Sputum of Pulmonary Disease.
Albany Medical Annals, 1884, 5: 193-198.
- On a New Method of Producing Immunity From Contagious Diseases.
Written with Daniel Elmer Salmon.
Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 1884-1886, 3: 29-33.
Smith found that dead virus can induce immunity against the living virulent virus. Although Smith made the discovery on his own, his supervisor, Daniel Elmer Salmon, usurped credit
- A New Chromogenous Bacillus.
Written with Daniel Elmer Salmon.
Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1885, 34: 303-309.
- On the Variability of Pathogenic Organisms, as Illustrated by the Bacterium of Swine-plague.
American Monthly Microscopical Journal, 1886, 201-203.
- The Bacterium of the Swine Plague.
Written with Daniel Elmer Salmon.
American Monthly Microscopical Journal, 1886, 7: 204-205.
- Some Recent Investigations Concerning Bacteria in Drinking Water. Medical News, 1886, 49: 399-401.
- A few Simple Methods of Obtaining Pure Cultures of Bacteria for Microscopical Examination.
American Monthly Microscopical Journal, 1886, 7: 124-125.
- On a New Method of Producing Immunity From Contagious Diseases. Written with Daniel Elmer Salmon.
Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 1886, 3: 29-33.
- A Contribution to the Study of the Microbe of Rabbit Septicaemia.
Journal of Comparative Medicine and Surgery, 1887, 8: 24-37.
- Quantitative Variations in the Germ Life of Potomac Water During the Year 1886.
Medical News, 1887, 50: 404-405.
- Experiments on the Production of Immunity by the Hypodermic Injection of Sterilized Cultures.
Written with Daniel Elmer Salmon.
Transactions of the IX International Medical Congress, Washington, 1887, 3: 493-407.
- The Relation of Drinking Water to some Infectious Diseases.
Albany Medical Annals, 1888, 9: 297-302.
- Recent Advances in the Disinfection of Dwellings as Illustrated by the Berlin Rules.
New York Medical Journal, 1888, 48: 117-120.
- Hog Cholera: Its History, Nature and Treatment.
Written with Daniel Elmer Salmon and Frederick Lucius Kilborne. Washington, 1889.
- Some Observations on Coccidia in the Renal Epithelium of the Mouse.
Journal of Comparative Medicine and Surgery, 1889, 10: 211-217.
- Preliminary Observations on the Microorganism of Texas Fever.
Medical News, 1889, 55: 689-693.
- Observations on the Variability of Disease Germs.
New York Medical Journal, 1890, 52: 484-487.
- Special Report on the Cause and Prevention of Swine Plague.
- Zur Unterscheidung zwischen Typhus- und Kolonbacille.
Centralblatt für Bakteriologie und Parasitenkunde (Original-Mittheilung), 1892, 11: 367-370.
- On Pathogenic Bacteria in Drinking Water and the Means Employed for Their Removal.
Albany Medical Annals, 1892, 13: 129-150.
- A New Method for Determining Quantitatively the Pollution of Water by Fecal Bacteria.
New York State Board of Health. Thirteenth Annual Report for the Year 1892. 1893, pp. 712-722.
- On a Pathogenic Bacillus From the Vagina of a Mare After Abortion. In: Bulletin. Bureau of Animal Industry. United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, 1893, 3: 53-59.
- Some Problems in the Etiology and the Pathology of Texas Cattle Fever, and Their Bearing on the Comparative Study of Protozoan Diseases.
Transactions of the Association of American Physicians, Philadelphia, 1893, 8: 117-134.
- Investigations Into the Nature, Causation, and Prevention of Texas or Southern Cattle Fever.
Written with F. L. Kilborne. Washington.
Government Printing Office, 1893.
U. S. Bureau of Animal Industry, Bulletin No. 1.
Reprinted in Medical Classics, 1936-1937, 1: 372-597.
Discovery of the parasite of Texas cattle fever, Pyrosoma bigeminum, and proof that its transmission is due to the cattle tick, Boôphilus bovis. This was the first demonstration of arthropod transmission of disease. Pyrosoma bigeminum is now known as Babesia bigemina, and Boôphilus bovis as B. annulatus.
- The Fermentation Tube With Special Reference to Anaërobiosis and Gas Production Among Bacteria.
Wilder Quarter-Century Book 1868-1893. Ithaca, 1893, pp. 187-233.
- Modification, Temporary and Permanent, of the Physiological Characters of Bacteria of Mixed Cultures.
Transactions of the Association of American Physicians, Philadelphia, 1894, 9: 85-106.
- An Infectious Disease Among Turkeys Caused by Protozoa (Infectious Entero-hepatitis).
Bureau of Animal Industry. United States Department of Agriculture, 1895, 8: 7-38.
- Some Practical Suggestions for the Suppression and Prevention of Bovine Tuberculosis.
Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture, 1895: 317-330.
- Ueber die Bedeutung des Zuckers in Kulturmedien für Bakterien.
Centralblatt für Bakteriologie und Parasitenkunde, 1. Abteilung (Originale), 1895, 18: 1-9.
- Antitoxic and Microbicide Powers of the Blood Serum After Immunization, With Special Reference to Diphteria.
Albany Medical Annals, 1895, 16: 175-189.
- Notes on Bacillus coli communis and Related Forms, Together With Some Suggestions Concerning the Bacteriological Examination of Drinking-water.
American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 1895, 110: 283-302.
- Comparative Pathology in Its Relation to Human Medicine.
Bulletin of the Harvard Alumni Association, 1896, 9: 50-69.
- Water-borne Diseases.
Journal of the New England Water Works Association, 1896, 10: 203-225.
- The Production of Diphteria Antitoxin.
Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies 1896, 16:83-82.
- The Conditions Which Influence the Appearance of Toxin in Cultures of the Diphteria Bacillus.
Transactions of the Association of American Physicians, Philadelphia, 1896, 11: 37-61.
- Two Varieties of the Tubercle Bacillus From Mammals.
Transactions of the Association of American Physicians, Philadelphia, 1896, 11: 75-93.
- Spontaneous Pseudo-tuberculosis in a Guinea-pig, and the Bacillus Causing It.
Journal of the Boston Society of Medical Sciences, 1897, 1: 5-8.
- A Modification of the Method for Determining the Production of Indol by Bacteria.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1897, 2: 543-547.
- One of the Conditions under Which Discontinuous Sterilization May be Ineffective.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1898, 3: 647-650.
- A Comparative Study of Bovine Tubercle Bacilli and of Human Bacilli From Sputum.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1898, 3: 451-511.
Reprinted in Medical Classics, 1936-1937, 1: 599-669.
- The Sanitary Aspects of Dairying.
Maine Farmer, December 15, 1898.
- The Thermal Death-point of Tubercle Bacilli in Milk and Some Other Fluids.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1899, 4: 217-233.
- The Relation of Dextrose to the Production of Toxin in Bouillon Cultures of the Diphteria Bacillus.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1899, 4: 373-397.
- The Atiology of Texas Cattle Fever. With Special Reference to Recent Hypotheses Concerning the Transmission of Malaria.
New York Medical Journal, 1899, 70: 47-51.
- Variations Among Pathogenic Bacteria.
Journal of the Boston Society of Medical Sciences, 1900, 4: 95-109.
- Adaptation of Pathogenic Bacteria to Different Species of Animals.
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1900, 142: 473-476.
- The Anti-toxin Unit in Diphteria.
Journal of the Boston Society of Medical Sciences, 1900, 5: 1-11.
- The Etiology of Malaria With Special reference to the Mosquito as an Intermediate Host.
Journal of the Massachusetts Association of Boards of Health, 1901, 11: 99-113.
- The Production of Sarcosporidiosis in the Mouse by Feeding Infected Muscular Tissue.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1901, 6: 1-21.
- On a Coccidium (Klossiella muris gen. et spec. nov) Parasitic in the Renal Epithelium of the Mouse.
Written with H. P. Johnson.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York , 1902, 6:303-316.
- The Relation Between Bovine and Human Tuberculosis.
Medical News, 1902, 80: 343-346.
- Studies in Mammalian Tubercle Bacilli. III. Description of a Bovine Bacillus From the Human Body. A Culture Test for Distinguishing the Human From the Bovine type of Bacilli.
Transactions of the Association of American Physicians, Philadelphia, 1903, 18: 109-151.
- The Agglutination Affinities of Related Bacteria Parasitic in Different Hosts. Written with A. L. Reagh.
Journal of Medical Research, n.s. 1903, 4: 270-300.
- The Non-identity of Agglutinins Acting Upon the Flagella and Upon the Body of Bacteria.
Written with A. L. Reagh. Journal of Medical Research, n.s. 1903, 5: 89-100.
- The Sources, Favoring Conditions and Prophylaxis of Malaria in Temperate Climates, With Special reference to Massachusetts. The Shattuck lecture.
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1903, 149: 57-64, 87-92, 115-118, 139-144.
- Some Problems in the Life History of Pathogenic Microorganisms.
Science, Washington, n.s. 1904, 20: 817-832.
- The Relation of Animal Life to Human Diseases.
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1905, 153: 485-489.
- The Parasitism of the Tubercle Bacillus and Its Bearing on Infection and Immunity. The Harvey lecture.
Journal of the American Medical Association, Chicago, 1906, 46: 1247-1254, 1345-1348.
- The Degree and Duration of Passive Immunity to Diphteria Toxin Transmitted by Immunized Female Guinea-pigs to Their Immediate Offspring.
Journal of Medical Research, n.s. 1907, 11: 359-379.
- The House-fly as an Agent in the Dissemination of Infectious Diseases.
American Journal of Public Hygiene, n.s. 1908, 4: 312-317.
- What is Diseased Meat and What Is Its Relation to Meat Inspection?
American Journal of Public Hygiene, n.s. 1909, 5: 397-411.
- Active Immunity Produced by So-called Balanced or Neutral Mixtures of Diphteria Toxin and Antitoxin.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1909, 11: 241-256.
- Animal Diseases Transmissible to Man.
Monthly Bulletin of the State Board of Health of Massachusetts, 1909, 4: 264-276.
- Insects as Carriers of Disease.
Monthly Bulletin of the State Board of Health of Massachusetts, 1910, 5: 112-119.
- Ueber die pathogene Wirkung des Bacillus abortus Bang.
Centralblatt für Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde und Infektionskrankheiten, 1912, I. Abteilung (Originale), 61: 549-555.
- Parasitismus und Krankheit.
Inaugural address as visiting professor, University of Berlin.
Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, Berlin, 1912, 38: 276-279.
- Agglutination Affinities of a Pathogenic Bacillus From Fowls (Fowl Typhoid) Bacterium sanguinarium, Moore) With the Typhoid Bacillus of Man.
Written with Carl Ten Broeck. Journal of Medical Research, n.s.1915, 26: 503-521.
- Some Field Experiments Bearing on the Transmission of Blackhead in Turkeys.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York , 1917, 25: 404-414.
- Certain Aspects of Natural and Acquired Resistance to Tuberculosis and their Bearing on Preventive Measures. The Mellon lecture.
Journal of the American Medical Association, Chicago, 1917, 68: 669-674, 764-769.
- Coccidiosis in Young Calves.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1918, 29: 89-108.
- A Pleomorphic Bacillus from Pneumonic Lungs of Calves Simulating Actinomyces.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York , 1918, 29: 333-344.
- Spirilla Associated With Disease of the Fetal Membranes in Cattle (Infectious Abortion).
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York , 1918, 28: 701-719.
- Parasitism as a Factor in Disease.
Science, Washington, 1921, 54: 99-108.
- The Significance of Colostrum to the New-born Calf.
Written with R. B. Little.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1922, 36: 181-198.
- Studies in Vaccinal Immunity Towards Disease of the Bovine Placenta Due to Bacillus Abortus (Infectious Abortion).
Written with R. B. Little. New York, 1923.
- Some Cultural Characters of Bacillus abortuns (Bang) With Special Reference to CO2 Requirements.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1924, 40: 219-232.
- Some Biological and Economic Aspects of Comparative Pathology.
Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1924, 31: 221-140.
- Encephalitozoon cuniculi as a Kidney Parasite in the Rabbit.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1925, 41: 25-35.
- Studies on a Paratyphoid Infection in Guinea Pigs. Written with J. B. Nelson.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1927, 45: 353-363, 365-377.
- Studies on Pathogenic B. coli From Bovine Sources. Written with R. B. Little.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York , 1927, 46: 123-131.
- The Relation of the Capsular Substance of B. coli to Antibody Production.
Journal of Experimental Medicine, New York, 1928, 48: 351-361.
- Animal reservoirs of Human Disease With Special reference to Microbic Variability.
Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 2nd. series, 1928, 4: 476-496.
- Disease a Biological Problem.
Bulletin of the Harvard Alumni Association, 1931, 5: 2-6.
- Koch's Views on the Stability of Species Among Bacteria.
Annals of Medical History, n.s. 1932, 4: 524-530.
- Focal Cell Reactions in Tuberculosis and Allied Diseases.
The Thayer lectures.
Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, 1933, 53: 197-225.
- Parasitism and Disease.
The Vanuxem lectures. Princeton, N. J., 1934. Obituaries:
- J. H. Brown:
Theobald Smith, 1859-1934.
Journal of Bacteriology, Washington, 1935, 30: 1-3. With photograph of bronze plaque.
- W. Bylloch:
In Memoriam of Theobald Smith, 1959-1934.
Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology, 1935, 40: 621-634. With portrait.
- E. Cohn:
Obituary: Theobald Smith, 1859-1934.
Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 2nd ser., 1935, 11: 107-116. With portrait.
- E. G. Conklin:
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1935, 75: 333-335.
- Simon Flexner's minute on Smith, read at the meeting of the board of scientific directors of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, on April 20, 1935.
- S. H. Gage:
Theobald Smith, 1859-1934.
Cornell Veterinarian, 1935, 25: 207-228. With Portrait.
Theobald Smith, Investigator and Man, 1859-1934.
Science, Washington, 1936, 84: 365-371. With portrait.
- Preston Kyes:
Theobald Smith. M.D., 1859-1934. Archives of Pathology, Chicago, 1935, 19: 234-238.
- E. B. McKinley:
Theobald Smith. Science, Washington, 1935, 82: 575-586.
- R. Stockard:
Dr. Theobald Smith. Science, Washington, 1934, 80: 579-580.
- S. B. Wolbach:
Dr. Theobald Smith.
Bulletin of the Harvard Alumni Association, 1935, 9: 35-38.
- Hans Zinsser:
Biographical Memoir of Theobald Smith, 1859-1934.
Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 1936, 17, no. 12: 261-303. With portrait and bibliography. Obituaries in foreign languages:
- O. Seifried:
Theobald Smith †. 1859-1934. Tierärztliche Rundschau, 1935, 41: 46-48.
- V. L. Yakimoff:
Theobald Smith. Priroda, 1935, 5: 81-86. Other references to Smith's life and work:
- P. F. Clark:
Theobald Smith, Student of Disease (1859-1934).
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1959, 14: 490-514.
With photograph of bronze medallion.
- S. Cutter:
Theobald Smith and His Contribution to Science.
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1937, 90: 245-255.
- E. Dolman:
Texas Cattle Fever. A Commemorative Tribute to Theobald Smith.
Clio Medica, 1969, 4: 1-31.
Theobald Smith. 1859-1934: Life and Work.
New York State Journal of Medicine, 1969, 69: 2801-2816.
The World Was My Garden. Travels of a Plant Explorer.
New York, 1938, pp. 24-25.
- M. C. Hall:
Theobald Smith as a Parasitologist.
Journal of Parasitology, 1935, 21: 231-243.
Theobald Smith on Disease.
Journal of Heredity, Washington, 1935, 26: 419-422.
A review of Smith's Parasitism and Disease.
- Paul de Kruif:
Theobald Smith: Ticks and Texas Fever.
Microbe Hunters. New York, 1926, pp. 234-251.
A Great American Scientist. World's Work, July 1914: 299-302.
- T. M. Prudden:
Professor Theobald Smith and a New Outlook in Animal Pathology.
Science, Washington, n.s. 1914, 39: 751-754.
- Anna M. Sexton:
Theobald Smith: First Chairman of the Laboratory Section, 1900.
American Journal of Public Health, 1951, 41: 125-131.
- H. P. Smith:
Theobald Smith. Land, 1949, 8: 363-368.