Simeon Burt Wolbach

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Simeon Burt Wolbach
Born3 July 1880
Died19 March 1954 (1954-03-20) (aged 73)
Alma materHarvard University
Known forwork on Rocky Mountain spotted fever, epidemic typhus, scurvy
Scientific career
InstitutionsHarvard, McGill, Bender Hygienic Laboratory, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Children's Hospital of Boston
Doctoral advisorWilliam Thomas Councilman

Simeon Burt Wolbach (3 July 1880 – 19 March 1954) was an American pathologist, researcher, teacher, and journal editor who elucidated the infection vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and epidemic typhus.[1] He was president of the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists and of the American Society for Experimental Pathology.[2]

Born the son of banker Samuel N. Wolbach and Rosa Stein, he was raised in a Jewish home in rural Nebraska in the wild west era.[3] He went east to study in Boston and remained there most of his life. He married Anna F. Wellington in 1914 and had three children.


Harvard Lawrence Scientific School, then Harvard Medical School M.D. 1903 Boston City Hospital postgraduate studies in pathology with Frank Burr Mallory and William T. Councilman 1903-05


In 1905, he returned to Harvard Medical School to work in pathology as an assistant under Councilman, while he was also the pathologist to the Boston Lying-In Hospital and the Long Island chronic care hospital. Three years later he became the director of Bender Hygienic Laboratory (today part of St. Peter's Healthcare) in Albany, New York, while an adjunct professor and department head of pathology and bacteriology at Albany Medical College. He spent 1909 at Montreal General Hospital and McGill University, then in 1910 returned to Harvard's Department of Bacteriology under Harold C. Ernst. In 1914 he became an associate professor of pathology and bacteriology there, then in 1922 was made the head of pathology, occupying the chair as Shattuck Professor of Pathological Anatomy. From 1922 to 47 he was at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children's Hospital of Boston as chief of pathology.[1] In 1938 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[4]


Wolbach's early research was into the effects of radiation on skin with Porter. Later field work in Africa got him interested in tropical parasitology.[2]

Working with McGill parasitologist John L. Todd, they carried uninfected lice (feeding them on their persons) to Poland in 1920 in order to demonstrate that lice transmit Rickettsia prowazekii, the organism which is the cause of epidemic typhus. For this work he received the rank of Commander in the Order of Polonia Restituta. Wolbach turned his attention to childhood development and vitamin deficiencies. Working with J.M. Coppoletta at Brigham and Children's, he developed tables of the weights of vital organs for different ages and body lengths which became a definitive reference for pediatric pathology.


  • Wolbach SB, Ernst H; Ernst (Dec 1903). "Observations on the morphology of bacillus tuberculosis from human and bovine sources". Journal of Medical Research. 10 (3): 313–33. PMC 2105968. PMID 19971576.
  • Wolbach SB (November 1919). "Studies on Rocky Mountain spotted fever". J Med Res. 41 (1): 1–198.41. PMC 2104421. PMID 19972499.
  • Hertig, M; Burt Wolbach, S (March 1924). "Studies on Rickettsia-Like Micro-Organisms in Insects". Journal of Medical Research. 44 (3): 329–374.7. PMC 2041761. PMID 19972605.
  • Wolbach, S. Burt (Mar 7, 1925). "The rickettsiae and their relationship to disease". Journal of the American Medical Association. 84 (10): 723–28. doi:10.1001/jama.1925.02660360005002.
  • Wolbach SB, Howe PR (1926). "Intercellular substances in experimental scorbutus [scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency state]". Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. 1: 1–24. ISSN 0003-9985.
  • Blackfan KD, Wolbach SB; Wolbach (1933). "Vitamin A deficiency in infants: a clinical and pathological study". Journal of Pediatrics. 3 (5): 679–706. doi:10.1016/s0022-3476(33)80022-9.
  • Coppoletta JM, Wolbach SB; Wolbach (January 1933). "Body length and organ weights of infants and children-a study of the body length and normal weights of the more important vital organs of the body between birth and twelve years of age". Am J Pathol. 9 (1): 55–70. PMC 2062747. PMID 19970058.
  • Wolbach SB (Dec 24, 1937). "Vitamin deficiency experimentation as a research method in biology". Science. 86 (2243): 569–76. doi:10.1126/science.86.2243.569. PMID 17835435.

Further reading[edit]

  • (editorial) (1954). "S. Burt Wolbach, M.D — 1880–1954". New England Journal of Medicine. 250 (23): 1010. doi:10.1056/nejm195406102502312.
  • S. Burt Wolbach; John L. Todd; Francis W. Palfrey (1922). The Etiology and Pathology of Typhus Being the Main Report of the Typhus Research Commission of the League of Red Cross Societies to Poland. OCLC 697755728. OL 7135227M.
  • Victoria Harden (July 1987). "Koch's postulates and the etiology of rickettsial diseases". Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. 42 (3): 277–95. doi:10.1093/jhmas/42.3.277. PMID 3305695.
  • Esmond Ray Long (1962). A History of American Pathology. Springfield, Illinois: Thomas. OCLC 2380295.


  1. ^ a b Wolbach SB (1954). "The Glorious Past, the Doleful Present, and the Uncertain Future of Pathology". Harvard Medical School Alumni Bulletin. 28: 45–48.
  2. ^ a b Warren S (1954). "Simeon Burt Wolbach 3rd July 1880-15th March 1954". Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology. 68 (2): 656–7. doi:10.1002/path.1700680246. PMID 14354577.
  3. ^ Budde, Gene. "Early Jews in Grand Island had a huge impact". Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  4. ^ Wright FE (June 1938). "The Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences". The Scientific Monthly. 46 (6): 582–587. JSTOR 16565.

External links[edit]