Alice Catherine Evans

Alice C. Evans
Born January 29, 1881
Neath, Pennsylvania
Died September 5, 1975(1975-09-05) (aged 94)
Alexandria, Virginia
Nationality American
Institutions US Department of Agriculture
United States Public Health Service
Alma mater Susquehanna Collegiate Institute
Cornell University
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Known for Demonstrating that bacillus abortus caused Brucellosis

Alice Catherine Evans (January 29, 1881 – September 5, 1975) was an American microbiologist. She became a researcher at the US Department of Agriculture. There she investigated bacteriology in milk and cheese. She later demonstrated that Bacillus abortus caused the disease Brucellosis (undulant fever or Malta fever) in both cattle and humans.

Early years and education

Alice Catherine Evans was born on a farm in Neath, Bradford County, Pennsylvania to William Howell, a farmer and surveyor, and Anne B. Evans, a teacher. In 1886, Evans survived scarlet fever, as did her brother Morgan. She attended the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute in Towanda, where she played on a women's basketball team and later became a teacher. After four years of teaching, she took free classes that were offered to rural teachers at Cornell University.[1] After receiving a scholarship, she earned a B.S. in bacteriology from Cornell University in 1909, and was the first woman to receive a bacteriology scholarship from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she earned her M.S. the following year.

Work and discoveries

Evans was offered the federal position as a bacteriologist finding methods to improve the flavor of cheddar cheese in the Dairy Division of the Bureau of Animal Industry at the United States Department of Agriculture. She accepted the offer in Madison, Wisconsin and worked there for three years. In those three years, she was coauthor of four scientific papers written on dairy science research. In 1913, she left for Washington, D.C. to work in the new laboratories of the Dairy Division. There she began her own study of bacteria that multiplies in a cow's utter and is discharged into the cow's milk. Bang's disease (Bacillus abortus or brucellosis) causes contagious abortion in healthy cows, and was considered not harmful to humans. Evans decided to investigate this; she wondered whether the disease in cows could be the cause of undulant fever in humans. She reported her findings to the Society of American Bacteriologists in 1917 and published her work in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in 1918.[2]

She was met with skepticism, particularly because she was a woman and did not have a Ph.D. She warned that raw milk should be pasteurized to protect people from various diseases. During the 1920s, scientists around the world made the same findings, and eventually Brucella was confirmed as the disease that caused what was then known as undulant fever and Malta fever. Her findings led to the pasteurization of milk in 1930. As a result, the national incidence of Brucellosis was significantly reduced.

Evans joined the United States Public Health Service in 1918, where she contributed to the field of infectious illness, like epidemic meningitis and influenza at the department's Hygienic Laboratories. There, she was infected herself with undulant fever in 1922, a disease incurable then that impaired her health for twenty years. She officially retired in 1945 but continued working the field. She lectured woman about career development and pursuing scientific careers.[3] She died of a stroke on September 5, 1975 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Evans donated a collection of her papers to the National Library of Medicine in 1969.[4]

Awards and honors


  1. "Alice Evans" Education & Resources. National Women's History Museum, 15 Dec. 2005. Web.
  2. Parascandola, John L. "Alice Catherine Evans (1881-1975)" Journal of Public Health Policy. Vol. 22, No. 1 (2001), pp. 105- 111. Palgrave Macmillan Journals
  3. Stevens, Marianne F. "Evans, Alice Catherine" American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2008.
  4. "Alice C. Evans Papers 1923-1975". National Library of Medicine.
  5. "Medicine:Bacteriologists". Time. January 9, 1928. Retrieved November 26, 2009.

Further reading

External links

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