Alice Catherine Evans

Bacteriology in Milk and Cheese

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Alice Catherine Evans was born on January 29, 1881 in Neath, Pennsylvania and died at age 94 on September 5, 1975. She served as the first female president of the American Society for Microbiology.


Once Evans completed her primary education she began attending the Susquehanna Institute in Tonawanda, New York for one year. Later she began attending Cornell University for the Nature Study course for two years where she decided to get her Bachelors of Science in Agriculture. After graduation, Evans received a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin in 1910 where she got her Masters Degree.


After Evans completed her year at the Susquehanna Institute she taught at a local elementary school. Once she received her Masters Degree she began doing research at the Department of Agriculture initially in Wisconsin and then later at the Dairy Division Laboratories in Washington D.C. where she began her study of bacteria in dairy products.

Alice Evans was intrigued to discover a close similarity between two types of bacteria: Bacillus abortus and Micrococcus Melitensis.

Bacillus abortus causes spontaneous abortions in cows and not thought to transfer to humans.

Micrococcus Melitensis causes a disease in humans that was originally known as Malta fever and later as undulating fever.

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This is a common disease in cows that spreads to humans through unpasteurized dairy products.


  • joint and muscle pain
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • belly pain
  • cough
  • headache

Evans' Contribution

In 1918, Evans discovered the first confirmed case where brucellosis transmitted to humans. She could prove how Brucella suis could be transmitted to humans. Some bacteriologists were dubious of her work and some rejected her finding on irrelevant grounds such as her being a female with no PhD while other bacteriologists wondered how this passed the scientists' notice for so long.

This disease was more common than thought and happened around the globe. Brucellosis was common among people exposed to raw milk. Evans developed chronic brucellosis as a result of her research.

Because of Evans vaccination of cows and pasteurization of milk are now routine. She is also responsible for the dramatic decline in both bovine (cattle) and human diseases.


After the discoveries of Louis Pasteur, a microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization, Alice Catherine Evans linked bacteria in milk with brucellosis.


"Alice Catherine Evans." World of Health. Gale, 2007. Biography in Context. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

"Louis Pasteur." World of Health. Gale, 2007. Biography in Context. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.