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Born on January 29, 1881 in Neath, Pennsylvania Alice C. Evans grew up in a family of Welch immigrant farmers, where she was the youngest of two daughters. After 4 years of working as a schoolteacher, Evan’s earned a two-year tuition free scholarship to Cornell University College of Agriculture where she earned a bachelor’s degree specializing in bacteriology. Evan’s was then granted a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin’s College of Agriculture where she obtained her master’s degree studying bacteriology. After graduating, she took a job as the “Dairy Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry” where she joined a team of individuals who worked to improve the flavor of cheddar cheese. Evans would eventually find the brucellosis bacteria found in raw milk caused fever in humans. This discovery has helped save many lives and has led the way for having safe dairy products. She has many accomplishments including being the very first female microbiologist. In addition, she was the first female to hold a permanent position as a bacteriologist at the “U.S. Department of Agriculture”, the first female to hold a senior appointment in the U.S. federal government, the first female president in what is now known as the “American Society of Microbiology”, she was the first person ever to discover the brucellosis bacterium which is found in raw milk, she got a law passed which allowed for milk pasteurization, and finally at age 89, she was elected to the National Academy of Science, and later inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame.


  • Alice C. Evans holding a test tube while working in a lab.  It was in a lab like this one where she discovered the brucellosis bacteria
  • The marker located near the former Susquehanna Collegiate Institute, where Evans graduated from.
  • The photo depicts Alice C. Evans in a graduation dress taken in 1928, when she was the president of the Society of American Bacteriologists

Medicine in the 1800’s was not advanced as it is today. However, scientists such as Alice C. Evans paved the way for important inventions and ideas that surfaced during this time. One important idea to come out of the time period was a push for sterilization. Sterilization protected people from serious infections which allowed for a huge improvement in life for people over the United States. Other inventions included the stethoscope and vaccines. These inventions would help improve the medical world and are both still used today. These inventions helped paved the way for modern medicine we experience today.

Alice C. Evans had many obstacles she had to overcome while working in the medical field during the 1800’s. At the time only men could work in the medical field, and it was unheard of to have a female in the medical field. Being a woman in the 1800’s was not easy. Woman at the time had very minimal rights and woman like Alice C. Evans gave momentum to woman all over the United States and allowed them to push for gender equality over the nation.

Throughout her life Alice C. Evans had a great deal of accomplishments. Evan’s became the very first female microbiologist. In addition, she was the first female to hold a permanent position as a bacteriologist at the “U.S. Department of Agriculture”, the first female to hold a senior appointment in the U.S. federal government, the first female president in what is now known as the “American Society of Microbiology”, she was the first person ever to discover the brucellosis bacterium which is found in raw milk, she got a law passed which allowed for milk pasteurization, and finally at age 89, she was elected to the National Academy of Science, and later inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame. Evan’s was also a strong supporter of the woman’s rights movement and was a person woman were able to look up to in that time period.

Alice C. Evans has many great accomplishments and helped improve the science world greatly. But more importantly, Evans used all these accomplishments to help push for woman’s rights and gender equality across the United States. Evan’s was able to conquer an abundance of discrimination in the science field, and pushed for milk pasteurization, which helped saved millions of lives. The marker is displayed in front of the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute where she graduated from. 

Colwell, Rita R. "Alice C. Evans: breaking barriers." The Yale journal of biology and medicine 72, no. 5 (1999): 349.

McFadden, C. (2019, October 22). 15 Medical Inventions And Discoveries of the 1800's That Have Come to Define Modern Medicine. Retrieved from https://interestingengineering.com/15-medical-inventions-and-discoveries-of-the-1800s-that-have-come-to-define-modern-medicine

Findlay, Lorraine A. "Alice Catherine Evans: The Shoulders Upon Which So Many Stand." Women in Microbiology (2018): 75-85.

Evans, Alice C. "Life cycles in bacteria." Journal of bacteriology 17, no. 2 (1929): 63.

Colon, Diana M. "Alice Catherine Evans (1881-1975)." Women in the Biological Sciences: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook (1997): 163.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Alice Evans, Encyclopaedia Britannica. January 25th 2020. Accessed April 20th 2020. https://www.britannica.com/science/bacteriology.

Young, Robyn. Dr. Alice C. Evans, HMdb.org. August 23rd 2018. Accessed April 20th 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=122322.

Colwell, Rita R.. “Alice C. Evans: breaking barriers.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 72 (1999): 349 - 356.