Sunday, December 27, 2009

David Hendricks Bergey

David Hendricks Bergey was born on the Mennonite meetinghouse farm in Shippack township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on December 27, 1860. As was the custom for boys on the farm he attended school during the winter and worked the farm during the summer. After turning 18 he attended private and normal schools and taught two winters in rural schools before he decided to study medicine. He started his medical training in the office of Dr. Samuel Wolfe of Shippack, PA.

He went to the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a B.A. and M.D. simultaneously in 1884 at a time when the discoveries of Luis Pasteur and Robert Koch was causing much discussion in American bacteriology circles. Dr. Bergey went to work in the laboratory of Dr. Henry Formad, who had made two visits to Dr. Koch's laboratory. It was here that Dr. Bergey was introduced to bacteriology.

For nearly ten years Dr. Bergey practiced medicine in North Whales, PA, before returning to the University of Pennsylvania in 1893 first as a student and then as a Scott Fellow in Hygiene in the newly built laboratory of Hygiene. In 1895 he was appointed assistant in chemistry, in 1903 he made assistant professor and in 1926 full professor of hygiene and bacteriology.

Dr. Bergey was responsible for numerous publications during his lifetime but he is best remembered for the manual of bacterial classification that is named after him. The first edition of the manual was published in 1923 by the Society of American Bacteriologists (now the American Society of Microbiologists). Dr. Bergey served as the chairman of the editorial board for the manual. Dr. Bergey had begun preparing the manual soon after he had been the president of the society in 1915 in order to replace the old system of bacterial classification outlines to fit newer knowledge. The manual, which still bears his name, has been constantly revised and is still used today as a standard reference of bacterial classification.

Dr. Bergey died on September 5, 1937. The Bergey award and Bergey medal, awarded for contributions to bacterial taxonomy, given out annually by the Bergey manual trust, are named after him.


Breed, Robert; "David Hendricks Bergey"; Journal of bacteriology(1938)vol.35:p.I2-345

"History of Bergey's Manual" at

David Hendricks Bergey, Wikipedia entry

Bergey's Manual Trust Website


  1. My grandmother, Dr. Cora Gunther, was his assistant.

  2. "North Whales" should actually read "North Wales."

  3. "Shippack" should read "Skippack."

  4. Thank you for this entry. I would add that it is my understanding that Dr. Bergey took classes from Dr. Henry Formad prior to going on to work with him in his laboratory.