WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Alice Catherine Evans: Advocate of Pasteurized Milk

Posted June 21, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Alice C. Evans was best known for her study of bacteriology in milk and cheese. She discovered the cause of the disease Brucellosis (also known as undulant fever, or Malta fever) in 1918. Her discovery led to the pasteurization of milk in 1930.

Education and Early Life

Evans was born in Neath, Pennsylvania on January 29, 1881. Both she and her brother survived Scarlet fever; Alice was five years old at the time. After a year of study at the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute Evans became an elementary school teacher four years until she could afford to continue her college studies. She went on to earn a B.S. in bacteriology from Cornell University (1909) and an M.S. from University of Wisconsin-Madison (1910) being one of the first women to receive scholarships at the schools.

After graduation, Evans became a researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she studied bacteriology in milk and cheese. She was the first woman scientist to have a permanent appointment in the Bureau of Animal Husbandry's U.S. Dairy Division.

Cause of Brucellosis

In 1917, after studying the bacterial contamination of milk for seven years, Evans demonstrated that Brucellosis is caused by the organism bacillus abortus. The study, published in 1918, showed that the bacteria was transmitted in raw milk and caused disease in both cattle and humans.

Because Evans lacked a Ph.D. and was a woman, her results were largely ignored at first; she was mocked by dairy workers for suggesting the pasteurization of milk to kill the bacteria. Her findings were slowly confirmed by other scientists. Eventually, in 1930, the pasteurization of milk became mandatory, and the number of cases of Brucellosis began to decline.

Evans herself contracted Brucellosis in 1925 and suffered from it for seven years. She continued to deal with periods of illness and remission for 30 years.

After leaving the Department of Agriculture she went to work for the U.S. Hygenic Laboratory studying meningitis and streptococcal infections. She died on September 5, 1975, after 30 years of retirement spent lecturing on female career development.


Distinguished Women of Past and Present - Alice Catherine Evans

National Women's Hall of Fame - Alice Evans

National Women's History Museum - Alice Evans (1881-1975) (link previously found at

Wikipedia - Alice Catherine Evans [image]


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