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David Bruce (microbiologist)

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Major-General Sir David Bruce KCB FRS FRCP FRSE1 29 May 1855 in Melbourne – 27 November 1931 in London was a Scottish pathologist and microbiologist who investigated Malta fever later called brucellosis in his honour and African trypanosomiasis sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in animals He discovered the first protozoan parasite transmitted by insects, which was later named Trypanosoma brucei after him2 Working in the Army Medical Service and the Royal Army Medical Corps, his major scientific collaborator was his microbiologist wife Mary Elizabeth Bruce née Steele, with whom he published more than thirty technical papers3


  • 1 Biography
    • 11 Early life and education
    • 12 Medical career
    • 13 Death
  • 2 Scientific contributions
  • 3 Honours and awards
  • 4 References
  • 5 Bibliography
  • 6 External links


Early life and educationedit

Bruce was born in Melbourne, Australia to Scottish parents: engineer David Bruce from Airth and his wife Jane Russell Hamilton from Stirling, who had emigrated to Australia in the gold rush of 1850 He was an only child He returned with his family to Scotland at the age of five They lived at 1 Victoria Square in Stirling He was educated at Stirling High School4 and in 1869 began an apprenticeship in Manchester However, a bout of pneumonia forced him to abandon this and re-assess his career5 He then decided to study zoology but later changed to medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 18766 He graduated in 18817

Medical careeredit

After a brief period as a general practitioner in Reigate, Surrey 1881–83, where he met and married his wife Mary, he entered the Army Medical School in Hampshire at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley He qualified the military examination in 1883 and joined the Army Medical Services and served till 19192 For his first post he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1884 and was stationed in Valletta, Malta8

Bruce was appointed Assistant Professor of pathology at the Army Medical School in Netley in 1889, and served there for five years7 He returned to military field service in 1894 and was posted to Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa He was assigned to investigate the case of cattle and horse sickness called nagana in Zululand On 27 October 1894, he and his wife moved to Ubombo Hill, where the disease was most prevalent When the Second Boer War broke out in 1899, accompanied by his wife, he ran the field hospital during the Siege of Ladysmith 2 November 1899 until 28 February 1900 For his service during the war he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel In 1900, he joined the army commission investigating dysentery in military camps, at the same time working for the Royal Society's sleeping sickness expedition2

Bruce served as a member of the Army Medical Service Advisory Board from 1902 to 1911 In 1914 he became Commander of the Royal Army Medical College, Netley, the position he held until his retirement as a Major-General in 1919 He was immediately appointed chairman of the governing body of the Lister Institute During his career he published more than ninety-seven technical articles, of which about thirty of them were coauthored by his wife7


He died four days after his wife in 1931, during her memorial service Both were cremated in London and their ashes are buried together in Valley Cemetery in Stirling, close to Stirling Castle, beneath a simple stone cross on the east side of the main north-south path, near the southern roundel They had no children9

Scientific contributionsedit

At the time of his service in Malta, British soldiers suffered an outbreak of what was called the Malta fever In 1886, he led the Malta Fever Commission that identified the organism that caused the fever as a bacterium Micrococcus melitensis later renamed Brucella melitensis10 Themistocles Zammit, one of the members of the commission, discovered the reason behind Mediterranean fever in 1905 Bruce discouraged the experiments being carried by Zammit and doubted his ability as a microbiologist Eventually, when he learned of the positive results linking the fever with unpasteurized goat milk, Bruce tried to discredit the role of Zammit and take credit to himself To a certain extent he succeeded, as it was renamed after him as brucellosis, however information about the role of Zammit has eventually surfaced11

When he was transferred to South Africa, he was sent to Zululand in 1894 to investigate the outbreak of cattle disease which the native called nagana In 1903, he identified the causative protozoa, and tsetse fly as the vector, of African trypanosomiasis "sleeping sickness"12 He was Surgeon-General for the duration of the First World War from 1914–19 at the Royal Army Medical College, Millbank, London13

Brucella is the genus and Brucellaceae is the family of the bacteria which was named after him, in recognition of his discoveries Brucella melitensis is the cause of undulant fever in man and of abortion in goats It is usually transmitted by goat's milk Trypanosoma brucei,14 the cause of sleeping sickness, is also named after him

Honours and awardsedit

Bruce was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society FRS in 1899 He served as editor of the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps between 1904 and 1908 He was the recipient of the Cameron prize of Edinburgh University in 1901 He received the Royal Society’s Royal Medal in 1904, the Mary Kingsley Medal in 1905, and the Stewart prize of the British Medical Association He was Croonian Lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians in 19157 He was awarded the Leeuwenhoek Medal in 1915, created a Companion of the Bath CB in the 1905 Birthday Honours, knighted in 1908 and upgraded to a Knight Commander of the Bath KCB in 19181 He was president of the British Science Association during 1924–192515

David Bruce's name as it features on the LSHTM Frieze in Keppel Street

Bruce's name features on the frieze of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Twenty-three names of public health and tropical medicine pioneers were chosen to feature on the School building in Keppel Street when it was constructed in 192616


  1. ^ a b b, J R 1932 "Sir David Bruce 1855-1931" Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 1: 79 doi:101098/rsbm19320017 
  2. ^ a b c Cook, GC 2007 Tropical Medicine: An Illustrated History of The Pioneers Burlington US: Elsevier Ltd pp 145–156 ISBN 978-0-08-055939-1 
  3. ^ "Sir David Bruce" wwwwhonameditcom Ole Daniel Enersen Retrieved 30 January 2017 
  4. ^ "Bruce, Colonel David" Who's Who Vol 59 1907 pp 234–235 
  5. ^ Stirling's Talking Stones ISBN 1-870-542-48-7
  6. ^ "Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002" PDF Royal Society of Edinburgh Retrieved 19 September 2010 
  7. ^ a b c d Brown, G H "David Sir Bruce" munksrollrcplondonacuk Royal College of Physicians of London Retrieved 30 January 2017 
  8. ^ SACHS A October 1951 "A memorial to major-general Sir David Bruce, KCB, FRS" Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 97 4: 293–5 PMID 14889518 
  9. ^ http://wwwroyalsocedorguk/cms/files/fellows/biographical_index/fells_indexp1pdf
  10. ^ Corbel, MJ; Banai, M 2015 "Brucella" Bergey's Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria John Wiley & Sons, Inc pp 1–30 doi:101002/9781118960608gbm00807 
  11. ^ Wyatt, Harold Vivian October 2005 "How Themistocles Zammit found Malta Fever brucellosis to be transmitted by the milk of goats" Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine University of Leeds: The Royal Society of Medicine Press 98 10: 451–454 ISSN 0141-0768 OCLC 680110952 PMC 1240100  PMID 16199812 doi:101258/jrsm9810451 
  12. ^ Ellis H March 2006 "Sir David Bruce, a pioneer of tropical medicine" British Journal of Hospital Medicine 67 3: 158 PMID 16562450 
  13. ^ S R Christophers: 'Bruce, Sir David 1855–1931' rev Helen J Power, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008, accessed 23 May 2014
  14. ^ Joubert JJ, Schutte CH, Irons DJ, Fripp PJ 1993 "Ubombo and the site of David Bruce's discovery of Trypanosoma brucei" Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 87 4: 494–5 PMID 8249096 doi:101016/0035-92039390056-V 
  15. ^ Presidential Address to the British Association Meeting, held at Toronto in 1924
  16. ^ "Behind the Frieze" LSHTM Retrieved 21 February 2017 


  • Laval R E December 2006 "Contribución al estudio histórico de la brucelosis en Chile" A contribution to historical understanding of brucellosis in Chile Revista chilena de infectología in Spanish 23 4: 362–6 PMID 17186086 doi:104067/S0716-10182006000400012 
  • Pai-Dhungat JV, Parikh F May 2004 "Sir David Bruce 1855–1931 postal stamps released to commemorate Anti-Brucellosis Congress-Malta 1964" The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India 52: 428 PMID 15656037 
  • Haas LF April 2001 "Sir David Bruce 1855–1931 and Thermistocles Zammit 1864–1935" Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 70 4: 520 PMC 1737312  PMID 11254779 doi:101136/jnnp704520 
  • Vassallo DJ September 1996 "The saga of brucellosis: controversy over credit for linking Malta fever with goats' milk" Lancet 348 9030: 804–8 PMID 8813991 doi:101016/S0140-67369605470-0 
  • Grogono BJ August 1995 "Sir David and Lady Bruce Part II: further adventures and triumphs" Journal of Medical Biography 3 3: 125–32 PMID 11639830 
  • Freeling P June 1995 "The Sir David Bruce Lecture, 1994 A matter of principles" Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 141 2: 61–9 PMID 7562740 doi:101136/jramc-141-02-02 
  • Grogono BJ May 1995 "Sir David and Lady Bruce Part I: A superb combination in the elucidation and prevention of devastating diseases" Journal of Medical Biography 3 2: 79–83 PMID 11640041 
  • Evans JA 1993 "Sir David Bruce: the dawn of microbiology" Veterinary History 7 3: 105–9 PMID 11639304 
  • Carne SJ June 1991 "Sir David Bruce Lecture 1990 "Heads and tales"" Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 137 2: 63–8 PMID 1875320 doi:101136/jramc-137-02-02 
  • Morrell DC June 1989 "Sir David Bruce memorial lecture 1988" Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 135 2: 43–8 PMID 2671356 doi:101136/jramc-135-02-02 
  • Mochmann H, Köhler W 1988 "100 years of bacteriology—history of the discovery of brucellosis 1: Uncovering the etiology of Malta fever by the British military surgeon David Bruce and the Mediterranean Fever Commission" 100 years of bacteriology—history of the discovery of brucellosis 1: Uncovering the etiology of Malta fever by the British military surgeon David Bruce and the Mediterranean Fever Commission Zeitschrift für ärztliche Fortbildung in German 82 6: 287–90 PMID 3043930 
  • Duggan AJ September 1977 "Bruce and the African Trypanosomes" The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 26 5 Pt 2 Suppl: 1080–3 PMID 20787 
  • Boyd J June 1973 "Sleeping sickness The Castellani-Bruce controversy" Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 28: 93–110 PMID 11615538 doi:101098/rsnr19730008 
  • ROBERTSON M April 1956 "Some aspects of trypanosomiasis with particular reference to the work of Sir David Bruce" The Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 59 4: 69–77 PMID 13332700 
  • MACARTHUR W September 1955 "An account of some of Sir David Bruce's researches, based on his own manuscript notes" Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 49 5: 404–12 PMID 13267903 doi:101016/0035-92035590003-1 
  • "Nova et Vetera" British Medical Journal 1 4925: 1337 May 1955 PMC 2062064  PMID 14363890 doi:101136/bmj149251337 
  • ROBERTSON M April 1955 "Sir David Bruce: an appreciation of the man and his work" Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 101 2: 91–9 PMID 14368591 
  • TULLOCH WJ April 1955 "Sir David Bruce; an appreciation" Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 101 2: 81–90 PMID 14368590 
  • DAVIES M April 1955 "A bibliography of the work of Sir David Bruce, 1887–1924" Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps 101 2: 122–9 PMID 13248207 

External linksedit

  •  "Bruce, Sir David" Encyclopædia Britannica 12th ed 1922 
  • London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine biographical article

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