CaltechAUTHORS
  A Caltech Library Service

International Culture Collections and the Value of Microbial Life: Johanna Westerdijk’s Fungi and Ernst Georg Pringsheim’s Algae

Kollmer, Charles A. (2022) International Culture Collections and the Value of Microbial Life: Johanna Westerdijk’s Fungi and Ernst Georg Pringsheim’s Algae. Journal of the History of Biology, 55 (1). pp. 59-87. ISSN 0022-5010. doi:10.1007/s10739-022-09669-6. https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20220322-742300000

Full text is not posted in this repository. Consult Related URLs below.

Use this Persistent URL to link to this item: https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20220322-742300000

Abstract

Around the turn of the twentieth century, microbiologists in Western Europe and North America began to organize centralized collections of microbial cultures. Collectors published lists of the strains they cultured, offering to send duplicates to colleagues near and far. This essay explores the history of microbial culture collections through two cases: Johanna Westerdijk’s collection of phytopathogenic fungi in the Netherlands and Ernst Georg Pringsheim’s collection of single-celled algae at the German University in Prague. Historians of science have tended to look at twentieth-century biological specimen collections as either repositories of communal research materials or storehouses of economically important biological variation. An examination of Westerdijk’s and Pringsheim’s collections illustrates how collectors, researchers, and patrons ascribed different kinds of value to collections featuring distinctive microbial life forms. This essay argues that characteristics of cultivated microorganisms, such as a fungus’s propensity to infect crops or an alga’s amenability to experimentation, shaped the trajectories of Westerdijk’s and Pringsheim’s collections as these collectors developed relationships with colleagues and patrons. Letters between Westerdijk and Pringsheim open a window onto divergences in their approaches to collecting cultures, while also shedding light on the aspirational internationality of the collections that resulted.


Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10739-022-09669-6DOIArticle
https://rdcu.be/cJAA4PublisherFree ReadCube access
ORCID:
AuthorORCID
Kollmer, Charles A.0000-0001-9014-331X
Additional Information:© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2022. Accepted 15 February 2022. Published 08 March 2022. I thank Brad Bolman, Angela Creager, Tara Suri, Patricia Faase, Jacalyn Duffin, Jocelyn Holland, Jonathan Koch, members of the HSS works-in-progress group at Caltech, two anonymous reviewers, and the editors of this journal for invaluable comments on previous drafts of this paper. I express my gratitude to Maike Lorenz, curator of the Culture Collection of Algae at Göttingen University, and Lesley Robertson, curator of the Delft School of Microbiology Archive, for assistance locating primary sources and images. Research supported by a Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship.
Funders:
Funding AgencyGrant Number
American Council of Learned SocietiesUNSPECIFIED
Andrew W. Mellon FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Culture collections; Phytopathology; Algology; Patronage; Scientific internationalism; Laboratory studies
Issue or Number:1
DOI:10.1007/s10739-022-09669-6
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220322-742300000
Persistent URL:https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20220322-742300000
Official Citation:Kollmer, C.A. International Culture Collections and the Value of Microbial Life: Johanna Westerdijk’s Fungi and Ernst Georg Pringsheim’s Algae. J Hist Biol 55, 59–87 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10739-022-09669-6
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114004
Collection:CaltechAUTHORS
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:23 Mar 2022 16:23
Last Modified:25 Jul 2022 23:14

Repository Staff Only: item control page