Department of Microbiology is located on the Fort Garry Campus and in the Department of Medical Microbiology on the Bannatyne campus, but microbiologists are also found in Agriculture and Food Science, Human Ecology, Engineering and the Clayton Riddell Faculty of the Environment. The existence of two core departments is a reflection of the history of the formation of the University of Manitoba, while its wide spread is a reflection of the importance of microbiology in so many disciplines.
The University was founded in 1877 from three separate colleges: St. Boniface, St. John’s and Manitoba. The Manitoba College of Medicine was founded in 1883, wherein Dr. Gordon Bell became the first Professor of Bacteriology, Pathology and Histology in 1896. The requirement of courses in natural sciences for medical students resulted in an amendment of the Universities Act to allow for additional teaching chairs in the natural sciences. In 1905, Dr. Bell (along with five others) became a professor in the new Faculty of Science. In fact, his teaching of bacteriology was confined largely to 3rd and 4th year medical students, and bacteriology was not included as part of the curriculum in the Faculty of Science. Ultimately, the College of Medicine became the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Bell remained Head of the Department of Bacteriology and Hygiene until his death in 1923. The department went through several name changes until 1967 when it became the Department of Medical Microbiology.
A second branch of microbiology was established in the Manitoba Agricultural College. Founded in 1906 in the Tuxedo area of the city, it moved to Fort Garry in 1913 and became a Faculty in 1924. Bacteriology was first taught by C. H. Lee, who was appointed Lecturer in the Botany Department of the College in 1908 and professor in 1913. He continued as such until his retirement in 1929.
Dr. A. Savage became head of the combined departments of Bacteriology and Animal Pathology and continued until 1945. At that time, he was succeeded by Dr. N. James who was instrumental in moving the department to the Faculty of Science in 1952, where it was officially renamed the Department of Microbiology.
At the time of its establishment, the Department had four professors, including Drs. James, N.E.R. Campbell, R.Z. Hawirko and M.C. Jamieson. Dr. T.M.B. Payne became head in 1956, and arranged the move of the department to Buller Building which was formally occupied in 1962 after an extensive renovation. With Dr. Payne’s premature death in 1960, Dr. Campbell served as head for two years until the arrival of Dr. H. Lees, who served as head until 1972. He in turn was succeeded by Dr. I Suzuki (1972 – 1985), Dr. P. C. Loewen (1985 – 2012) and Dr. D. Court (2012 – present day).
By the time it occupied Buller Building, the department had six faculty members who were gradually supplemented with another eight faculty members including two instructors by the early 1980s. With new faculty members came new programs in microbial physiology, biochemistry, microbial ecology, industrial microbiology, molecular genetics, virology, recombinant DNA, molecular biology and structural biology. The programs have been continually updated to reflect the current trends in modern microbiology.
The teaching of biochemistry has been successfully shared with the Department of Chemistry for over 45 years. However, this was not always the case, although the recipe for success was relatively simple. In the 1960’s there was a certain element of competition between the two departments as to which should be responsible for the program. Both departments had biochemists on faculty, so the solution was the establishment of the Joint Microbiology Chemistry Committee on Biochemistry (and a little later, Biotechnology) in the early 1970s composed of the biochemists from both departments. It is responsible for recommending all curriculum and program changes to the two departmental councils and continues to serve the program well.
About 40 years after the major Buller upgrade of the early 1960s, the building started showing its age. The first indication of a serious problem was the discovery that the main sewer under the building had rusted into oblivion. This was replaced, only to be followed by heaving of the basement floor. With the arrival of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation in the 1990s, the opportunity for laboratory renewal arose. Since then, there has been a continual series of renovations and upgrades. This work and its outcomes are described in detail in the Buller Saga.
Dr. Norman James
1952 - 1956
Dr. Thomas M. B. Payne
1956 - 1960
Dr. Norman Campbell
1960 - 1962
Dr. Howard Lees
1962 - 1972
Dr. Isamu Suzuki
1972 - 1985
Dr. Peter Loewen
1985 - 2012