The history of science collections held in the Center for the History of Microbiology and the Center for Biological Sciences Archives are the focus of this year's Archives Month festivities at UMBC. Jeff Karr, the archivist for the Center for the History of Microbiology and American Society for Microbiology (ASM) library and archives, has curated a small exhibit in the Library about famed microbiologist Dr. Cornelis B. van Niel.
CORNELIS B. VAN NIEL (1897-1985): Bringing the Delft School to America
Shortly after arriving at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station (HMS) in Pacific Grove, CA from his native Delft, Cornelis B. van Niel fundamentally redefined the process of photosynthesis, suggesting that it was water, not carbon dioxide, which was the source of oxygen released in this process. Based on analogy from the metabolism of the purple sulfur bacteria, his insight offered an early example of the value of using microorganisms to illuminate larger biological processes. His suggestion that green plant photosynthesis was only a specific instance of a more generalized metabolic process helped demonstrate the "Unity in Biochemistry" which had been posited by his mentor in Delft, Albert Jan Kluyver.
van Niel was also an admired teacher. From 1930 until 1962 his short summer course in "General Microbiology" drew increasing numbers of scientists from a wide variety of disciplines who were enthralled by his animated lecture style and his broad knowledge of the bacteria.
In 2004 the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) designated the Loeb Laboratory at HMS as a Milestones in Microbiology site based on van Niel's contributions to the microbiological sciences. ASM maintains its archival and historical collections in the Center for the History of Microbiology in the Albin O. Kuhn Library, and materials from these collections illustrating van Niel's life and work have been put on display in the Library Rotunda. The exhibit will remain in the Rotunda through the end of the semester.
For more about the Center for the History of Microbiology visit www.asm.org/choma
For more information about Archives Month at UMBC, visit the website at: http://aok.lib.umbc.edu/specoll/archivesmonth