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Theodor Rosebury Papers 1919-2006
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Biography

Biographical Note

Dr. Theodor Rosebury was an American bacteriologist who devoted his career primarily to oral microbiology. Born in London in 1904, Rosebury's family moved to the United States in 1910 and he became a naturalized citizen in 1916.

He earned his D.D.S. degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1928 and embarked on a career in dental research and teaching focused on the biochemical and nutritional aspects of dental caries. Understanding the relationship of nutrition and immunological stress on indigenous members of the microflora to health and disease became a central focus of his career. Dr. Rosebury spent the 1930s at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons as an instructor in the Department of Bacteriology. From 1924-1939, Rosebury and Leuman Waugh studied the epidemiology of dental caries in Eskimos in Alaska. Among his other noteworthy studies during this era were investigations into the relationship of fusospirochetal infections to Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis.

During World War II Dr. Rosebury interrupted his teaching to serve as Director of the Air-Borne Infection Unit of the Biological Warfare Program, which was based at Fort (then Camp) Detrick, Maryland. His co-authorship of a 1947 paper based on this work, "Biological Warfare," sparked a political backlash against him as some felt the paper revealed information that might ultimately be used to harm the United States. Rosebury later became involved in the Pugwash Conferences during the Cold War era, where he helped define rules limiting the development and use of biological warfare weapons. After the war he returned to his position at Columbia University. In 1951 he became chairman of the Washington University's (St. Louis, Mo.) Bacteriology Department where he remained until his retirement in 1966.

He published his two most popularly noteworthy publications after his retirement. Life on Man (1969) described the variety of microbes that live on all parts of the human body. Microbes and Morals; the Strange Story of Venereal Disease (1971) examined how interconnected venereal disease is to an entire range of seemingly non-related human social problems.