Bulloch, William

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Bulloch, William

(b. Aberdeen, Scotland, 19 August 1868; d. London, England, 11 February 1941)


Bulloch participated in the early development of medical bacteriology in Britain and won lasting recognition as a historian of that science. He came from a plain-living, scholarly Aberdonian family. His father, John Bulloch, an accountant, and his mother, Mary Malcolm, had two sons and two daughters. William was the younger son, and with his brother, John Malcolm a distinguished London journalist, shared the liteary talent, with predilectons for history and genealogy, that their father and grandfather had displayed. He attended Aberdeen Grammar School until 1884, and King’s Colloge, aberdeen, for two years before enrolling in medicine at Marischal Colloge. After graduating in 1890 with highest honors, he studied pathology at Aberdeen, Leipzig, and various other European medical centers before returning briefly to Aberdeen in 1984 to present a prize-winning M.D. thesis. Courses in bacteriology at the pasteur Institute from Émile Rpus, Elie Metchnikoff, and Emile Duclaus were followed by ashort asistantship to Victor Horsley, professor of pathology at University College, London.

In July 1895 Bulloch took charge of the serum laboratories at the British (later, Lister)Institute of Preventive Medicine. In 1897 he was appointed bacteriologist to the London Hospital and lecturer on bacteriology and pathological chemistry to its medical school, and in 1919 became Goldsmith’s professor of bacteriology at the University of London. After officially retiring in 1934, Bulloch served these institutions as consulting bacteriologist and emeritus professor. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1913, received an honorary LL.D. from Aberdeen in 1920, and held the following lectureships: Horace Dobell (Royal College of Physicians, 1910), Tyndall (Royal Institution, 1922), and Heath Clark (University of London, 1937). Bulloch’s brief marriage in 1901 to Anna Molbo, a Danish pianist, was dissolved. In 1923 he married Irene Adelaide Baker, widow of an Australian crickerter, who survived him., In his last years, Bulloch suffered from paralysis agitans, He died in the London Hospital following a minor operation.

Although a lacakdaisical administrator, Bulloch was an unforgettable lecturer. A clever mimic and raconteur, he enjoyed dramatizing the foibles and accomplishments of ramous bacteriologists at home and abroad, many of whom were personal friends. His knowledgeableness and scrupulosity brought him membership on various technical advisory committees and the chairmanship, in 1932, of the Lister Institute’s board of governors. His bibliography totals more than a hundred titles, and he was generally sole author. The earliest reports, dating from 1892, were histoneurological; but the scope soon broadened to include, for instance, descriptions of a new anaerobic jar or bacterial filter, and investigations of such contemporary problems as Ehrlich’s diphtheria toxin “spectra” and antitoxin assay, Almroth Wright’s opsonins and vaccine therapy (especially as related to tuberculosis), and the Wassermann test for syphilis. This work, always carefully performed and meticulously recorded, seldom revealed new knowledge of signal importance, but facilitated critical appraisal of others’ claims. After 1910 Bulloch deserted the laboratory for the library, and his publications were mainly painstaking reviews of hereditary diseases, notably hemophilia, whose genetics fascinated him, and tributes to distinguished bacteriologists. His innate compilatory and historical talents were best expressed in his contributions ot monographs on diphtheria (1923)and surgical catgut (1929), and to A System of Bacteriology (1929–1931), culminating in his scholarly masterpiece, The History of Bacteriology (1938).


I. Original Works. The fullest bibliography of Bulloch’s works (106 items) is that provided by his stepson-in-law, Clifford Dobell, as an appendix (pp.842–853) to the detailed obituary by a former pupil, J.C.G. Ledingham (see below). Among the more original and characteristic publications are “Hyaline Degeneration of the Spinal Cord,” in Brain, 15 (1892), 411–413; “A Contribution to the Study of Diphtheria Toxin,” in Transactions of the Jenner Insitute of Preventive Medicine, 2nd ser. (1899), 45–55;“A Simple Apparatus for Obtaining Plate Cultures or Surface Growths of Obligate Anaerobes, “in Zentralblatt fur Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde, Infektionskrankheiten und Hygiene, Abt.I. 27 (1900), 140–142; “The Chemical Constitution of the Tubercle Bacillus,” in Journal of Hyginene, 4 (1904), 1–10 written with J.J.R. MacLeod; “On the Relation of the Suprarenal Capsules to the Sexual Organs,” in Transactions of the pathological Society of London, 56 (1905), 189–208, written with J.H. Sequeira; “The Principles Underlying the Treatment of Bacterial Diseases by the Inoculation of Corresponding Vaccines,” in Practitioner, 75 (1905), 589–610; “On the Transmission of Air and Micro-organisms Through Berkefeld Filters,” in Journal of Hyginene, 9 (1909), 35–45, written with A.J. Craw; The Problem of Pulkmonary Tuberculosis Considered from the Standpoint of Infection (London, 1910); “L Abbate Spallanzani. 1729–1799,” in Parasitology, 14 (1922), 409–412; Diphteria; Its Bacteriolitgy, Pathology and Immunology (London, 1923), written with Frederick and Inmunology W Amdrewes. S.R.Douglas, Georges Dreyer, et. al.; The preparation of catgut for Surgical Use, Medical research Council Special Report Series, no, 138 (London, 1929), written with L.H. Lampitt and J. H. Burhill; “History of bacteriology,” in A System of Bacteriology in Relation to Medicine, I (London, 1930), 15–103 (Bulloch was chairman of the committee that prepared this nine-volume work, and contributed numerous ariteles besides the opening chapter); and The history of Bacteriology (London, 1938:repr. 1960).

Bulloch’s authoritative contributions on rheumatic fever, plague, tuberculosis, and relapsing fever, in Clifford Allbutt and Humphry Davy Rolleston.A system of medicine(London, 1899), survived several editions, He also wrote articles for Karl Pearson’s Treasury of Human Inheritance (London, 1912), including those on diabetes insipidus, angioneurotic edema, and (with P. Fildes) hemophilia.

Bulloch’s purely historical writings include tribute to Spallanzani. Pasteur, Koch and Lister. Among his more notable obituaries are those on Emanuel Klein, Charles Creighton, Sir Alexander Ogston. Waldemar haffkine, Shibasaburo Kitasato, Sir William Walson Cheyne, Emile roux, and Theobald Smith.

II. Secondary Literature. Obituaries include P. Fildes, “William Bulloch. 1968–1941,” in Journal of Pathology and bacteriology, 53 (1941), 297–308; J.C.G. Ledingham, “William Bulloch, 1868–1941,” in Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society,3 (1941), 819–843; J. McIntosh, “Prof. William Bulloch, F.R.S.,” in Nature, 147 (1941), 504–505; and H. M. Turnbull, “Professor william Bulloch M.D., LL., D., F.R.S.,’ in British Medical journal (1941), 1 , 341–342, Other refereces to Bulloch’s life and work are C. E. Dolman, “Tidbits of Bacteriological History,” in Canadian Jouranl of Public Health, 53 (1962), 269–278; and “Paul Ehrlich and William Bulloch; A Correspondence and Friendship (1896–1914),” in Clio medica, 3 (1968), 65–84.

Claude E. Dolman