Boasting more than 39,000 members worldwide – representing 26 disciplines along with a division dedicated to microbiology educators – ASM is a major actor in microbiological sciences. Professor David C Hooper MD, President of the Society, highlights the breadth of their influence
Could you outline the circumstances that brought about the formation of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM)?
ASM was established in 1899 as the Society of American Bacteriologists and today is the umbrella organisation for the broad field of microbiology. In 100 years, ASM has expanded to include many subdivisions of the science, ranging from bacteriology to immunology, virology, mycology and parasitology.
The first meeting, held at Yale University Medical School on 27-29 December 1899, attracted 59 attendees and 26 paper presentations. From the standpoint of medical and much practical bacteriology, the programme of that inaugural gathering was surprisingly comprehensive. It embraced nomenclature and systematics; sterilisation and antiseptics; sewage treatment; dairy bacteriology; the testing of water, milk, and canned food; investigations on the organisms of plague, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and actinomycosis; ‘the so-called fermentation of tobacco’; and even a new pathogenic fungus. The individual achievements of the three founding members include the establishment of the first graduate course in public health in the U.S.; pioneering work in dairy bacteriology, including the use of pure cultures for making dairy products; and research publications on water purification, sewage disposal, food poisoning, pasteurisation of milk, and the bacteriology of typhoid fever. The name was changed to the American Society for Microbiology by vote of the membership in 1960.
What does ASM consider to be its main mission and goal?
At its inception, the Society’s science was focussed on improving public health, and ASM’s mission still retains that aim among its goals. As now formally stated, the Society’s mission is ‘to advance the microbiological sciences worldwide as a vehicle for understanding basic life processes and to promote the application and sustainability of the knowledge gained for improved health and economic and environmental wellbeing’.