George Miller Sternberg Biography (1838-1915)

physician, bacteriologist

George Miller Sternberg was born June 8, 1838 at Hartwick Seminary, Ostego County, New York. He died on November 3, 1915 in Washington, D.C. He was the son of Levi Sternberg, a Lutheran clergyman, and Margaret Levering Sternberg. In 1865, he married Louisa Russell, and in 1869, Martha L. Pattison (no children). He received his M.D. degree in 1860 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. From 1860 to 1861, he practiced medicine in Elizabeth, New Jersey. From 1861 to 1902, he served with the U.S. Army MedicalCorps (rising in rank from assistant surgeon to brigadier general). From 1861 to 1865 (during the Civil War), he assumed field and hospital duties. From1865 to 1879, he served at various army posts during the Indian campaigns andcholera and yellow fever epidemics. In 1879, he was a member and secretary of the Havana Yellow Fever Commission of the National Board of Health. In 1898, he was placed in command of the medical service during the war with Spain.In 1885, he served as president of the American Public Health Association.

Sternberg is largely responsible for introducing Americans to the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch; he also made pioneering bacteriological investigations of his own, publishing an important treatise in 1892. He announced thediscovery of diplococcus of pneumonia in 1880, almost simultaneously with Pasteur. He was the first American researcher to demonstrate the protozoan responsible for malaria (1885), and the bacilli of tuberculosis and typhoid fever(1886). He and Koch began the scientific study of disinfection; he publisheda valuable treatise on the subject in 1900. He made advances in the field ofphotomicrography, and published a manual that became the authoritative American work on the subject. He started the Army Medical School in 1893. He organized the army's nurse and dental corps. In 1898, he established the Typhoid Fever Board, which demonstrated the importance of flies and contact infection in the spread of typhoid. He organized and supported Walter Reed's Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba (1900), which proved that the causative agent of yellowfever was transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. He was one of thefirst to show that viruses in people could be tracked by the antibodies theyproduced. Among Sternberg's writings are "A Fatal Form of Septicemia in theRabbit, Produced by the Subcutaneous Injection of Human Saliva," Reports of the National Board of Health, No. 3 (1881), 87-92; Photomicrographsand How to Make Them (1883); "Disinfection and Individual prophylaxis Against Infectious Diseases," The Lomb Prize Essays (1886), 99-136; AManual of Bacteriology (1892).

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