David Bruce (microbiologist)

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Major-General Sir David Bruce
David Bruce
Born 29 May 1855
Died 27 November 1931(1931-11-27) (aged 76)
Nationality Scottish
Fields microbiology
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Known for trypanosome
Notable awards Royal Medal (1904)
Leeuwenhoek Medal (1915)
Buchanan Medal (1922)
Albert Medal (1923)
Manson Medal (1923)
David Bruce (centre), with members of the Mediterranean Fever Commission (Brucellosis).

Major-General Sir David Bruce KCB FRS FRCP FRSE[1] (29 May 1855 in Melbourne – 27 November 1931 in London) was a Scottish pathologist and microbiologist who investigated brucellosis (then called Malta fever) and trypanosomes, identifying the cause of sleeping sickness.


He was born in Bendigo, Australia to Scottish parents, engineer David Bruce (from Airth) and his wife Jane Russell Hamilton (from Stirling), who had emigrated to Australia in the gold rush of 1850. He returned with his family to Scotland at the age of five. They lived at 1 Victoria Square in Stirling.

He was educated at Stirling High School[2] and in 1869 began an apprenticeship in Manchester. However a bout of pneumonia forced him to abandon this and re-assess his career,.[3] He then decided to study zoology but later change to medicine at the University of Edinburgh.[4] He graduated in 1881.

Medical career

After a brief period as a general practitioner in Reigate (1881–83) where he met and married his wife Mary, he joined the Army Medical Service (1883–1919) and in 1884 was stationed in Malta, where he identified Malta fever.[5]

In the Boer War, accompanied by his wife, he ran the field hospital during the Siege of Ladysmith (2 November 1899 until 28 February 1900).

In 1903, he identified the causative protozoa, and tsetse fly as the vector, of African trypanosomiasis ("sleeping sickness").[6] He was Surgeon-General for the duration of the First World War from 1914–19 at the Royal Army Medical College, in Millbank, London.[7]

He won the Leeuwenhoek Medal in 1915. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1899, created a Companion of the Bath (CB) in the 1905 Birthday Honours, knighted in 1908 and upgraded to a Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB) in 1918.[1] He was president of the British Science Association during 1924–1925.[8]

Brucella is the genus and Brucellaceae is the family of the Bacteria which was named after him, due to his discoveries. Brucella melitensis is the cause of undulant fever in man and of abortion in goats. It is usually transmitted by goat's milk. Trypanosoma brucei,[9] the cause of sleeping sickness, is also named after him.

He died four days after his wife in 1931, during her memorial service. Both were cremated in London and their ashes are buried together in Valley Cemetery in Stirling, close to Stirling Castle, beneath a simple stone cross on the east side of the main north-south path, near the southern roundel. They had no children.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 b., J. R. (1932). "Sir David Bruce. 1855-1931". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1: 79. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1932.0017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Bruce, Colonel David". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. pp. 234–235.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Stirling's Talking Stones ISBN 1-870-542-48-7
  4. "Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002" (PDF). Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 19 September 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. SACHS A (October 1951). "A memorial to major-general Sir David Bruce, K.C.B., F.R.S". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 97 (4): 293–5. PMID 14889518.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ellis H (March 2006). "Sir David Bruce, a pioneer of tropical medicine". British Journal of Hospital Medicine. 67 (3): 158. PMID 16562450.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. S R Christophers: 'Bruce, Sir David (1855–1931)' (rev. Helen J Power), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008, accessed 23 May 2014
  8. Presidential Address to the British Association Meeting, held at Toronto in 1924
  9. Joubert JJ, Schutte CH, Irons DJ, Fripp PJ (1993). "Ubombo and the site of David Bruce's discovery of Trypanosoma brucei". Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 87 (4): 494–5. doi:10.1016/0035-9203(93)90056-V. PMID 8249096.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. http://www.royalsoced.org.uk/cms/files/fellows/biographical_index/fells_indexp1.pdf


  • Laval R E (December 2006). "Contribución al estudio histórico de la brucelosis en Chile". Revista chilena de infectología (in Spanish). 23 (4): 362–6. doi:10.4067/S0716-10182006000400012. PMID 17186086. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pai-Dhungat JV, Parikh F (May 2004). "Sir David Bruce (1855–1931) postal stamps released to commemorate Anti-Brucellosis Congress-Malta 1964". The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India. 52: 428. PMID 15656037.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Haas LF (April 2001). "Sir David Bruce (1855–1931) and Thermistocles Zammit (1864–1935)". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. 70 (4): 520. doi:10.1136/jnnp.70.4.520. PMC 1737312. PMID 11254779.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Vassallo DJ (September 1996). "The saga of brucellosis: controversy over credit for linking Malta fever with goats' milk". Lancet. 348 (9030): 804–8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(96)05470-0. PMID 8813991.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grogono BJ (August 1995). "Sir David and Lady Bruce. Part II: further adventures and triumphs". Journal of Medical Biography. 3 (3): 125–32. PMID 11639830.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Freeling P (June 1995). "The Sir David Bruce Lecture, 1994. A matter of principles". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 141 (2): 61–9. doi:10.1136/jramc-141-02-02. PMID 7562740.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grogono BJ (May 1995). "Sir David and Lady Bruce. Part I: A superb combination in the elucidation and prevention of devastating diseases". Journal of Medical Biography. 3 (2): 79–83. PMID 11640041.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Evans JA (1993). "Sir David Bruce: the dawn of microbiology". Veterinary History. 7 (3): 105–9. PMID 11639304.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Carne SJ (June 1991). "Sir David Bruce Lecture 1990. "Heads and tales"". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 137 (2): 63–8. doi:10.1136/jramc-137-02-02. PMID 1875320.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Morrell DC (June 1989). "Sir David Bruce memorial lecture 1988". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 135 (2): 43–8. doi:10.1136/jramc-135-02-02. PMID 2671356.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mochmann H, Köhler W (1988). "100 years of bacteriology—history of the discovery of brucellosis. 1: Uncovering the etiology of Malta fever by the British military surgeon David Bruce and the Mediterranean Fever Commission". Zeitschrift für ärztliche Fortbildung (in German). 82 (6): 287–90. PMID 3043930. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Duggan AJ (September 1977). "Bruce and the African Trypanosomes". The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 26 (5 Pt 2 Suppl): 1080–3. PMID 20787.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Boyd J (June 1973). "Sleeping sickness. The Castellani-Bruce controversy". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 28: 93–110. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1973.0008. PMID 11615538.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ROBERTSON M (April 1956). "Some aspects of trypanosomiasis with particular reference to the work of Sir David Bruce". The Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 59 (4): 69–77. PMID 13332700.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • MACARTHUR W (September 1955). "An account of some of Sir David Bruce's researches, based on his own manuscript notes". Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 49 (5): 404–12. doi:10.1016/0035-9203(55)90003-1. PMID 13267903.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Nova et Vetera". British Medical Journal. 1 (4925): 1337. May 1955. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.4925.1337. PMC 2062064. PMID 14363890.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ROBERTSON M (April 1955). "Sir David Bruce: an appreciation of the man and his work". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 101 (2): 91–9. PMID 14368591.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • TULLOCH WJ (April 1955). "Sir David Bruce; an appreciation". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 101 (2): 81–90. PMID 14368590.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • DAVIES M (April 1955). "A bibliography of the work of Sir David Bruce, 1887–1924". Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 101 (2): 122–9. PMID 13248207.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links