Title: Karl Friedrich Meyer Miscellaneous Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1928?-1947
Collection number: MSS 47-8
Creator: Meyer, Karl Friedrich, 1884-1974
Extent: 1 box (7 folders)
University of California, San Francisco. Library. Archives and Special Collections.
San Francisco, California 94143-0840
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Karl Friedrich Meyer Miscellaneous Papers, MSS 47-8, Archives
& Special Collections, UCSF Library & CKM
Karl Friedrich Meyer was born on May 19, 1884, in a suburb of Basel, Switzerland. He
obtained his undergraduate instruction at Zurich, where he received his A.B. degree in
1905. Following graduate study at the Universities of Basel, Munich, Bern and Zurich, he
received the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Zurich in
1909 and a Ph.D. in Zoology in 1924.
From 1908 to 1910 Dr. Meyer was pathologist to the Department of Agriculture in the
Transvaal, South Africa. From there he went to the University of Pennsylvania, first as
assistant professor and later as professor of pathology and bacteriology. In 1913 he came
to the University of California as associate professor of bacteriology and proto-zoology.
His important work during this period in the absolute prevention of botulism by proper
bacteriologic precautions during the preparation of preserved foods made the California
canning industry possible.
In 1921 he became acting director of the George Williams Hooper foundation for Medical
Research and in 1924 director and professor of bacteriology. In 1954 he became director
emeritus and professor emeritus, but was recalled annually to active service until the
year of his death.
Dr. Meyer's primary field of interest was the role of animals as hosts for vectors of
human disease, which led to his leadership in the battle against anti-vivisectionist
pressures, but he also made numerous contributions in the areas of microbiology,
immunology and epidemiology. He was the first to find the non-psittacine reservoirs of
psittacosis, the first to demonstrate complement fixation to psittacosis, and he showed
how to eliminate psittacosis from large flocks of commercial poultry by impregnating
feed. His identification of sylvatic plague, showing the inland reservoirs of this
infection and their relation to plague-infested rats on Pacific coastal areas, his
contributions toward the development of a plague vaccine, and recognition of the
antigenic components of plague bacilli are internationally known. His research on
paralytic shellfish intoxication alerted the state health department to issue warnings
about mussels, and the more colloquial dictum to avoid eating mussels in months without
R, at which time mussels host the poisonous gonyaulax. Dr. Meyer's extensive bibliography
(over 400 publications) also includes studies in such diverse areas as rabies, polio and
During his career, Dr. Meyer was frequently called to lecture throughout the world. Some
of the more notable lectureships he held include the Cutter Lecturer at Harvard in 1931,
Hektoen Lecturer the same year, Gehrmann Lecturer in 1933, Smith-Reed-Russell Lecturer in
1935, University of California Faculty Research Lecturer in 1937, Visiting Lecturer in
Epidemiology at Harvard in 1941 and, also in 1941, DeLamar Lecturer at Johns Hopkins and
Harvey Lecturer. His work was recognized by many countries with numerous prizes and
medals. Among these were the decoration Officier d'Ordre de La Santé Publique in
1941, the Sedgewick Memorial Medal in 1946, the James B. Bruce Medal in 1950, the Walter
Reed Medal from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 1956.
Additionally, Dr. Meyer held many fellowships, memberships, consultancies,
board/commission/committee appointments, and honorary degrees.
Karl Friedrich Meyer died on April 27, 1974, just three weeks before his 90th birthday.