Scientists Heroes

Alice Catherine Evans

by Dannah from San Diego

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Raw Devotion

As Augustine Mandio once said, "Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough". Mandino's morals described Alice Catherine Evans perfectly, as she had immense success due to her unwavering determination. Evans was an American scientist that discovered brucella, a bacteria found in raw milk, that causes undulant fever in humans. The disease causes miscarriages in cows and when transferred to humans, can cause long-term effects ("Alice Evans." World). Before her discovery, the fever was common, but often misdiagnosed as other diseases ("Alice Evans." Encyclopedia). Additionally, "she was the first woman president of the Society of American Bacteriologists" ("Alice Evans." World). Selflessness and persistence are both needed in conjunction to perform such heroic acts. The act of being being selfless is putting others' health and well-being before oneself, and being determined is pushing forward despite the challenges. Alice Catherine Evans was heroic because she was dedicated to her selfless studies, unrelenting in her campaign to pasteurize milk, and inspiring because of her triumph over sexism.

Evans devoted herself to her cause, which improved the health and well-being of both people and animals. Due to her groundbreaking conclusion, she greatly affected the United States: "Her pioneering work has spared an untold numbers of lives and saved millions of dollars in public health costs. It also resulted in enormous savings to the livestock and dairy industries, whose annual losses from aborted animals, lowered milk production, and reduced breeding efficiency have dropped from $400 million in 1952 to less than $1 million today" (Colwel). Evans spent her entire lifetime dedicating herself to world issues, which benefitted many industries. She singlehandedly improved the quality of milk, as well as the quality of people's lives. This required an abundance of compassion for the people she needed to help. Her incredible work affects everyone today and supports that she was dedicated. As a result of her extensive work, she contracted the fever: "In 1922, Evans, like many others who researched these organisms, became ill with brucellosis" ("Alice Evans." World). Despite the setback of acquiring the disease, she used her personal experience to better understand the symptoms. While she could have quit her studies, she continued to immerse herself in her research. The new intel on the fever influenced her to seek a cure, so others would not have to experience the pain she went through. This verifies her commitment to improving the world around her. In addition to her famous work, Evans explored other illnesses. "Wanting to be helpful in the war effort, she worked on improving the drug used to treat epidemic meningitis, a disease that was rampant in the military. Meningitis kills more than half of the people who contract it. Unfortunately, Evans wound up becoming ill [with meningitis] herself'("Alice Evans." Encyclopedia). Again, Evans obtained a sickness from aiding those in need. Her actions outside of her most well known work shows her willingness to help others under many different circumstances. Her caring character is portrayed in the many acts of selflessness that she performed.

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Despite having many critics, Evans continued to persevere in persuading the science community to accept her ideas. Many did not approve of her discovery:

She faced the wrath of dairy industry representatives, some of whom suspected her of collaborating with manufacturers of pasteurizing equipment. Certified dairy farmers who bristled at her findings lobbied tooth and nail against the extra costs of pasteurization, with a zeal exacerbated by the fact that her research affected the industry while it was fighting other problems, namely, the Bureau of Animal Industry's campaign of tuberculosis eradication in cattle. However, she remained a strong and unwavering advocate of pasteurizing milk until the practice became widespread in the United States. (Colwel)

Although she was doubted by the science community, she did not waver in her position on the importance of pasteurizing milk. She had to fight against many skeptics to get her word out, but wound up succeeding. Her ability to prove her ideas even while competing against the more respected authorities in science illustrates her persistence. Despite the disapproval of many, she was able to continue pursuing her goals of helping others. "Paul De Kruif summed up the attitude of Evans' colleagues in his book Men Against Death. 'If Evans were right,' he imagined the scientists of the day as reasoning, 'somebody much more outstanding than Evans would have run onto it long before. Such,' De Kruif stated, 'is the silliness of scientists'" ("Alice Evans." Encyclopedia). Paul De Kruif gave a perfect example of the way scientists reacted towards her discovery. Evans had to battle for the attention she deserved. She was relentless and was able to validate her experiments against the many that did not believe in her work.  Evans's labor payed off when she identified the specifics of the illness:

First, Evans began to collect more and more reports of brucellosis in humans from countries around the world. Apparently the disease was more common than anyone had imagined. Second, she discovered that the disease can occur in two forms: acute, in which the symptoms occur quickly and are easy to recognize, and chronic, in which symptoms develop slowly and over many years. ("Alice Catherine Evans.")

She did not cease at just discovering the disease, she continued to study the bacteria and was able to specify its many different forms. Her newfound knowledge helped treatment for those affected to become improved and more specialized. Her findings show that she not only constantly resisted the criticism, she completely ignored the dubious scientists to further prove the importance of pasteurizing milk. Evans was a tireless scientist that was able to prove her ideas were accurate.

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Alice Catherine Evans was an extremely selfless, relentless, and inspiring woman who's work and dedication has shaped our society today. Her compassionate nature was a driving force for her heroism, as well as her commitment to her campaign for the betterment of others. She had to tolerate bias to pursue her passion: "Although she experienced prejudice early in her career because she was a woman, Evans overcame many obstacles and lived to see the importance of her discoveries confirmed by others. She had a major impact on microbiology in the United States and the world and received honors for her numerous achievements in the field" ("Alice Evans." Scientists). Evans's successful pursuit despite sexism demonstrates that she is an outstanding role model. She inspires me because she portrays courage and is daring to push beyond social boundaries.  Her will to prevail is what prevented her from failure, and, in the end, was the reason for all her achievements.  

Works Cited

"Alice Catherine Evans." World of Biology, Gale, 2006. Biography in Context,

Accessed 28 Apr. 2017.

"Alice Evans." Encyclopedia of World Biography, vol. 19, Gale, 1999. Student Resources in


Accessed 2 May 2017.

"Alice Evans." Scientists: Their Lives and Works, UXL, 2006. Biography in Context,

Accessed 2 May 2017.

"Alice Evans." World of Microbiology and Immunology, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and

K. Lee Lerner, Gale, 2006. Biography in Context, Accessed May 2017.

Colwel, Rita R. "Alice C. Evans: Breaking Barriers." Yale Journal of Biography and Medicine,

1999, Arlington, Virginia,

Page created on 5/23/2017 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/23/2017 12:00:00 AM

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