The Centre for the History of Medicine, Durham University, UK.

Sponsored by the Northern Centre for the History of Medicine, supported by the Wellcome Trust, London

Research Seminar Reminder

Friday 20 November 2009: Mr Jamie Stark (University of Leeds): ‘A “Scheme of Bacteriological Research”: The Anthrax Investigation Board (1905-1919)’, Durham University, Queen’s Campus, Stockton-on-Tees, Wolfson Research Institute, Seminar Room. A buffet lunch will be served at 12.30pm and the talk is to commence at 1pm

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If you would like to attend, please contact the Centre’s Outreach Officer, Katherine Smith, mailto:[email protected]

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This paper will analyse the origins and development of the Anthrax Investigation Board for Bradford & District from its creation in 1905 through to its final meeting in 1919. The organisation attempted to combat the scourge of anthrax which from the mid-19th century had been an ever-present danger to those working in West Yorkshire’s wool industry – the global heart of that particular trade. In order to accomplish this, the Board appointed a bacteriologist – Dr F. W. Eurich – to undertake microscopical and cultural experiments and observations using samples of wool, with a view to classifying fleeces in terms of the potential danger which they posed. He was also charged with developing an economically viable method of disinfection for the fleeces. The lengthy process of testing disinfectants in a laboratory setting resulted in strong criticism being levelled at the Anthrax Investigation Board from numerous sources due to the perceived lack of progress. Comparisons will be drawn between the work of Eurich and earlier attempts to reduce the incidence of anthrax, most notably the investigations conducted by the Commission on Woolsorters’ Diseases, established in 1880.

It will be shown that that the institutional frameworks within which local medical research was conducted around the turn of the 20th century was of crucial importance in determining the approaches used in such research. In doing so, a recently-established niche in the historiography formed through a revisionist understanding of the “Bacteriological Revolution” – most notably through the work of Michael Worboys – will be explored by demonstrating the existence of a plurality of approaches in bacteriological understanding and practice in a local setting.