Jordan, Edwin O. (Edwin Oakes), 1866-1936

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Bacteriologist. B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1888.

From the description of Papers, 1888-1936 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52248229

Edwin Oakes Jordan was born July 28, 1866, in Thomaston, Maine. His interest in bacteriology grew from his studies with William Thompson Sedgwick at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a B.S. degree in 1888. Although the work of Pasteur and Koch was well known in America by the time Jordan entered college, he was still among the first generation of students trained in the new science. Sedgwick, who became one of the foremost trainers of public health workers in the nation, had himself begun teaching the subject only a few years earlier. Jordan worked as chief assistant biologist for the Massachusetts State Board of Health from 1888 until 1890, when he received a fellowship at Clark University. Jordan studied zoology with Charles O. Whitman, and received a Ph.D. degree in 1892.

When Whitman left Clark for a professorship at the newly founded University of Chicago several of his students followed him there, including Jordan. Jordan began as an Instructor in Zoology. The courses he taught included general zoology as well as more specialized offerings such as "Sanitary Biology." As the department grew he was able to concentrate on his field of bacteriology. He was made an Assistant Professor in 1895, Associate Professor in 1900, and Professor of Bacteriology in 1907.

The increasing importance of the work of Jordan and others in his field is evidenced by the rapid growth of the department. In 1900, the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology was separated from Zoology, and in 1912 these two disciplines also split, Jordan becoming chairman of the new Department of Hygiene and Bacteriology. Jordan's department received its own quarters in Ricketts Laboratory in 1915. Much of Jordan's work in the 1890s and early 1900s focused on sewage and water treatment systems. His testimony in support of the Chicago drainage canal figured heavily in the lawsuits and controversy that surrounded its construction. He completed reports for several mid-western cities on related problems such as typhoid and milk-borne diseases. His studies in these areas extended beyond public health issues to "pure" bacteriological research. During World War I, he directed the American Red Cross railroad laboratory car "Lister," which traveled to various army camps in order to train technicians and control epidemics. Later Jordan became interested in food poisoning, and was hired as a consultant by several companies such as Swift and H. J. Heinz.

Jordan served as an editor of the Journal of Infectious Diseases and the Journal of Preventive Medicine. He wrote many books and articles, although he was probably most widely known for his textbook, General Bacteriology. First printed in 1908, it went through many editions in his lifetime, and after being updated by William Burrows continued to be published, reaching its 20th edition in 1973.

International health issues also received Jordan's attention. He was a member of the International Health Board of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1920 to 1927, and traveled abroad to study conditions in several countries including Argentina, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Jamaica.

Jordan married Elsie Fay Pratt in 1893, and they had three children.

Jordan retired from active teaching at the University of Chicago in 1933. He died September 2, 1936, in Lewiston, Maine.

From the guide to the Jordan, Edwin Oakes. Papers, 1888-1936, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Novy, Frederick George, 1864-1957. Frederick George Novy papers, 1882-1957. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Jordan, Edwin Oakes. Papers, 1888-1936 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Jordan, Edwin Oakes, 1866-1936. Papers, 1888-1936 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Monterey Public Library. California History Room. Biography clippings : "J" [surname] folder 1815-1994 Monterey Public Library
referencedIn Falk, I. S. (Isidore Sydney), 1899-1984. Isidore Sydney Falk papers, 1918-1984 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf [Edwin Oakes Jordan, biographical materials] University of Wisconsin - Madison, General Library System
referencedIn Isidore Sydney Falk papers, 1918-1984 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Frederick G. Novy Papers, 1890-1954 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Public health


Birth 1866-07-28

Death 1936-09-02



Ark ID: w64j0vqb

SNAC ID: 69703716