- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Hans Zinsser

Born  1878
Died  1940

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American bacteriologist, born November 17, 1878, New York; died 1940.

Biography of Hans Zinsser

Hans Zinsser obtained his doctorate from Columbia University in 1903. From 1903 to 1905 he was a bacteriologist at Roosevelt Hospital, 1905-1906 at his alma mater. 1907-1910 he was assistant pathologist at St. Luke’s Hospital, and from 1908 also instructor for bacteriology at the Columbia University. In 1910 he became associate professor at Stanford University, full professor there in 1911, 1913 at Columbia University, 1923 at Harvard University.

Hans Zinsser made major contributions to bacteriology and public health. In 1906 he developed a medium and a simple method to plate anaerobic organisms. He did extensive work on typhus and in 1934 developed a vaccine of killed rickettsias that would protect against typhus. Zinsser was assistant to the bacteriologist Philip Hanson Hiss (1868-1913), and was co-writer with his on a Textbook of bacteriology.


  • Textbook of bacteriology.
    With Philip Hanson Hiss Jr. (1868-1913). New York, 1910.
    6th edition, 1928.
  • Infection and resistance.
    New York, Macmillan Co., 1914; 4th edition, 1931.
  • A laboratory course in serum study.
    With J. G. Hopkins and Reuben Ottenberg (1882-).
    New York, 1916; 2nd edition, 1921.
    Hopkins kan være feil for F. G. Hopkins
  • Varieties of typhus virus and the epidemiology of the American form of European typhus fever (Brill’s disease).
    American Journal of Hygiene, 1934, 20: 513-532.
  • Rats, lice and history: being a study in biography, which, after 12 preliminary chapters indispensable for the preparation of the lay lay reader, deals with the life history of typhys fever.
    Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1935. Reprint edition, 1984.
    German translation: Ratten, Läuse und und die Weltgeschichte. Stuttgart/Calw 1949. 320 pages. “We have chosen to write the biography of our disease because we love it platonically — as Amy Lowell loved Keats — and have sought its acquaintance wherever we could find it. And in this growing intimacy we have become increasingly impressed with the influence that this and other infectious diseases, which span — in their protoplasmic continuities — the entire history of mankind, have had upon the fates of men.” The Internet bookshop The Common Reader presents the reprint edition thus: . . . this “biography of a bacillus,” first published in 1934, is enormous fun. Bacteriologist Zinsser presents — after much engaging preliminary conversation concerning science, art, and the three subjects his title announces — the life and times of the typhus fever.

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