Monday, January 5, 2015

Rebecca Lancefield - immunologist and microbiologist

When asked to think about the medical and scientific advancements over the last 150 years, it is not difficult to find many to celebrate. One of the most important is the increased understanding of bacteria and how they operate -- and how we can prevent outbreaks of deadly disease as a result of them.

And foremost in the countless scientists who have spent their lives improving the lives of others would be Dr. Rebecca Lancefield. Because of her life's work an immense number of different types of streptococci have been identified and studied, leading to better treatment of the often deadly diseases they cause, many of which were still a complete mystery to scientists at the beginning of the 20th century.

In particular, Dr. Lancefield worked for many years to understand the relationship between streptococcus and rheumatic fever which led to her work classifying many previously unknown strains of streptococci at the time. It was her unwavering determination to be as precise and organized in her research that compelled her to study the minute differences between strains, and how they each reacted to a specific type of serum. In so doing, she created what is now referred to as the Lancefield Collection of Streptococcus Strains -- an enduring and invaluable resource for immunologists and bacteriologists.

Rebecca Price Craighill Lancefield was born on January 5, 1895.


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