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Person Record

Name Pittman, Margaret
Occupation Bacteriologist Margaret Pittman's father, who was a country doctor, by have developed her interest in science. She graduated magna cum laude from Hendrix College in 1923 with degrees in biology and mathematics. In 1928, after teaching briefly, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in bacteriology.

Her first position was Assistant Scientist at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City, where her first assignment involved research on the microbiology and immunology of Hemophylus influenza infections. She discovered a form of the bacterium had a capsule and was especially likely to invade the bloodstream to cause meningitis. The Hemophylus influenza vaccine introduced in 1985 is based on this very capsule.

In 1934, faced with a reduction in staff at Rockefeller due to the Depression, Pittman got a position with the New York State Department of Health in Albany. However, in 1935 the Social Security Act provided funds for the National Institute of Healh (NIH) to add positions, so in 1936 Pittman, as a top scorer on a Civil Service exam, was one of the three bacteriologists hired by the NIH. Pittman started at the Division of Biologics Control, which set standards for and licensed vaccines, antitoxins, and other biological products, as well as ensuring that commercial products met those criteria. The Division was transferred in 1975 to the Food and Drug Administration.

Pittman worked closely with Dr. Sara Branham, who had been one of her instructors in Chicago. The potency of commercial meningitis antisera was at that time highly variable; some were ineffective. Branham and Pittman developed a mouse assay to test the potency of antisera. The method was used to set standards for commercial products. Over the years, Pittman developed procedures for quantitative determination of potency for other biologics. Her work on pertussis vaccine was particularly notable and led to new standards that related to a lowered incidence of this disease. During World War II, the military found that some batches of blood products produced fevers. In collaboration with Dr. Thomas Probey, Pittman developed a pyrogenicity test for blood products that allowed manufacturers to change methods to provide pyrogen-free products.

Over the objection of her male colleagues, Pittman was named Chief of the Laboratory of Bacterial Products in 1958, becoming the first woman at NIH to be promoted to lab chief. Her work and publications increased her world-wide recognition. She served on World Health Organization study groups and committees. In the 1960s, Pittman helped establish the South East Asia Treaty Organization Cholera Research Laboratory in Dacca (then in India). Pittman retired from NIH in 1971 after 34 years and was promptly appointed a "guest worker." She actively engaged in scientific matters until 1993, when she suffered a stroke. She published over 100 articles as well as chapters in several reference books and received many awards. In 1994, the NIH established the Margaret Pittman Award in her honor.
No Archives 0
No Objects 16
No Photos 5
Birthplace Praire Grove, Arkansas
Born 1901
Deceased 1994
Titles & honors Chief, Laboratory of Bacterial Products
1970 Federal Woman's Award
1994 Margaret Pittman Award established
Education Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas, BS, 1923
University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1928

Associated Records

Image of 06.0021.006 - Set, Pathology Slide

06.0021.006 - Set, Pathology Slide

University of Chicago Pathology 302 Slide Collection The case is covered with black fabric and has a side hinge with two metal snap closures. Inside of the lid is an Object Register with "Central Scientific Co., Chicago, USA" printed on it. Handwritten on the register (by Dr. Pittman) are descriptions of the the slides and "Path. 302, M. Pittman." Slides are glass microscope slides with University of Chicago stickers on them with slide numbers handwritten on them. Smaller slide covers are on all of the slides. Four slides are missing and two have no identifying stickers. 06.0021.006.01 - 41B Spleen miliary tb (tuberculosis) 06.0021.006.02 - 41C Lung miliary tb (tuberculosis) 06.0

Image of 06.0021.005 - Set, Pathology Slide

06.0021.005 - Set, Pathology Slide

The case is covered with black fabric and has a side hinge with two metal snap closures. Inside of the lid is an Object Register with "Central Scientific Co., Chicago, USA" printed on it. Handwritten on the register (by Dr. Pittman) are descriptions of the the slides and "Property of Margaret J. Pittman, Ricketts Lab, R. 29." Slides are glass microscope slides with University of Chicago stickers on them with slide numbers handwritten on them. Smaller slide covers are on all of the slides. 06.0021.005.01 - Hemorrhagic nephritis 06.0021.005.02 - 1A Menstruating uterus (normal) 06.0021.005.03 - 1B Hemorrhage into the uterus 06.0021.005.04 - 1C Hemorrhage in the brain 06.0021.005.05

Image of 06.0021.001 - Pencil, Mechanical

06.0021.001 - Pencil, Mechanical

Sterling silver. .01 Maker’s info stamped around the top. The ringtop lifts up to reveal a place to load pencil lead. The top has a worked edge on the rim and a small ring so it can be worn from a chain. .02 Stainless steel canister with top. Inside holds pencil lead. No marks. Pencil lead is 1.1 mm diameter. 06.0021.001.01 - pencil 06.0021.001.02 - lead container 06.0021.001.03 - pencil lead 06.0021.001.04 - pencil lead 06.0021.001.05 - pencil lead 06.0021.001.06 - pencil lead 06.0021.001.07 - pencil lead

Image of 06.0021.002 - Scalpel

06.0021.002 - Scalpel

Stainless steel. Smooth handle. All one piece of metal. Stamped with "Weiss, London, England."

Image of 06.0021.003 - Hand-piece, Dental

06.0021.003 - Hand-piece, Dental

Stainless steel. Handle is smooth sexagon. The tip is slightly bent. There are no pick identification numbers stamped on it but "F. A. Koch & Co., Germany."

Image of 06.0021.004 - Tweezers

06.0021.004 - Tweezers

06.0021.004.01 - large tweezers 06.0021.004.02 - small tweezers .01 Stainless steel. Textured grip on pincers and outside and on the tip on the inside. Stamped with "F.A. Koch & Co., Germany." Straight tip. .02 Same as .01 but a hole and tab on the pincers, no stamp, curved tips.

Image of 06.0021.007 - Slide

06.0021.007 - Slide

Microscope Slide: Membrane from Menstruating Uterus Glass microscope slide--BROKEN-- with red bordered label. Handwritten on label is "membrane from menstruating uterus, stain H. & E., M.P. 1928." Was in a badly damaged envelope with "membrane slide" written in pencil on it.

Image of 16.0002.008 - Box, File

16.0002.008 - Box, File

.01-3 Card files .01-3 Steel container for 3x5 index cards. The container has lips for handles. They are filled with index cards and dividers; some cards are hand-written and some are typed.

Image of 16.0002.001 - Book

16.0002.001 - Book

Brown cloth-cover with title, etc. in black. Inside cover is Pittman's signature. Inside page has in pencil: "CX UD 1.50" "8:00 classes, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 8:00-10:00 // 9:00 classes, Wed., Dec. 23, 8:00-10:00 // 10:00 classes Mond, Dec. 21, 8:00-10:00."

Image of 16.0002.002 - Book

16.0002.002 - Book

Red cloth-cover. Title in gold only on spine. Inside cover is a bookplate belonging to Dr. Edwin Oakes Jordan with handwritten in ink, "Presented by Mrs. Jordan to Margaret Pittman, June 1938." The title page has pencil signature of Jordan. Published by Edward Arnold, London.

Image of 16.0002.003 - Book

16.0002.003 - Book

Red cardboard cover, glossy paper with photographs.

Image of 16.0002.004 - Book

16.0002.004 - Book

Tan paper cover. Glued spine.

Image of 16.0002.005 - Book

16.0002.005 - Book

Green paper cover and glued spine.

Image of 16.0002.006 - Book

16.0002.006 - Book

.01 Book .02 Hendrix College mid-semester grade report .03 Subscription to Anti-saloon League of America .04 Sheet of paper with outline of "Special devices for integration" .05 Physics I, 1st semester Exam 1920-21 .01 Green cloth-covered with black title on front and spine. Inside cover has in pencil "89.350." The flyleaf has Margaret Pittman's signature in ink with "21", and in pencil, "3.00, Def of Psy.: Science of human behavior, base median and tertex angle." The other side has an inscription inked in Pittman's hand: "A distinguished thinker has said that Mathematical studies are of immense benefit to the student 'by habituating him' to precision. It is one of the pecul

Image of 16.0002.007 - Book

16.0002.007 - Book

Paper covers on each article. All are bound by fabric tape with typed "Pneumococcus Studies, Dr. Francis. (Dr. Pittman)." Articles include: 1. "Cutaneous Reactions to the Polysaccharides and Proteins of Pneumococcus in Lobar Pneumonia," William S. Tillett & Thomas Francis, Jr, Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEMED), Nov.. 1, 1929, vol 50 no. 5, pp. 687-701. 2. "Serological Reactions in Pneumonia with a Non-Protein Somatic Fraction of Pneumococcus," WST and TF, JEMED, Oct. 1, 1930, 52(4), pp. 561-571. 3. "Cutaneous Reactions in Pneumonia. The Development of Antibodies Following the Intradermal Injection of Type-Specific Polysaccharide," TF 7 WSST, JEMED, Oct. 1, 1930, 52(4), pp

Image of 99.0007.001 - Bottle, Vaccine

99.0007.001 - Bottle, Vaccine

Blue and white glossy cardboard box. Vial is glass with blue flip-off top. Information sheet is legal-sized and folded over the tope of the vial in the box. 99.0007.001.01 - Vial of vaccine, 7.5 mL 99.0007.001.02 - Information sheet 99.0007.001.03 - Original box - cardboard

Image of Science Service - Margaret Pittman and Sadie Carlin test commerical meningitis serum

Science Service - Margaret Pittman and Sadie Carlin test commerical meningitis serum

Drs. Margaret Pittman and Sadie L. Carlin, U.S. National Institute of Health, are "reading" an agglutination reaction, part of the test for potency of commerically prepared anti-meningitis serum.

Image of Science Service - Dr. Margaret Pittman drying meningitis germs with Flosdorf-Mudd lyophile process

Science Service - Dr. Margaret Pittman drying meningitis germs with Flosdorf-Mudd lyophile process

Dr. Margaret Pittman, U.S. National Institute of Health, demonstrates the Flosdorf-Mudd lyophile process which dries cultures of meningitis germs. They can be kept several years.