Born January 29, 1881 in Neath, Pennsylvania,Alice catherine evanswas an American scientist whose landmark work on pathogenic bacteria in dairy products was instrumental in gaining acceptance of the pasteurization process to prevent disease.
After completing high school,EvansHe taught for four years before enrolling in a two-year course for rural teachers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. There he became interested in science and completed a B.S. at Cornell and an M.S. at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, both in bacteriology. She was encouraged to pursue a Ph.D., but decided to work in milk and cheese bacteriology for the dairy division of the US Department of Agriculture. Her work with bacteria in milk led to her groundbreaking work on the brucellosis, a bacterial infection (not yet known by that name) that could cause both spontaneous abortions in animals and remitting fever in humans.
Evanspublished the results of his work in 1918, but researchers, veterinarians, and doctors were skeptical of his claim that pathogens were zoonotic (that is, they caused symptoms in animals and humans). The dairy industry also scoffed at his warning that raw milk should be pasteurized to safeguard human health. Two years later, a scientist at the University of California proposed a new genre,Brucella, to include both bacteria pathogenic to humans and pathogenic to livestock, whileEvanshe was continuing his work with various species of bacteria. In 1922, Evans herself became infected and for more than two decades suffered periodic bouts of brucellosis.
Due to the pioneering work ofEvansIn the late 1920s, brucellosis was understood not only as an occupational hazard for farmers, but also as a threat to the food supply. Once the American dairy industry grudgingly accepted the need to pasteurize milk, the incidence of brucellosis decreased. In recognition of his achievement, in 1928 the Society of American Bacteriologists electedEvansas the organization’s first female president. He retired in 1945, although he remained professionally active.