Friday, February 11, 2011

Introduction: Abe Anellis (1914-2001)

         1. Introduction. Abe Anellis participated in the development of dehydrated (powdered) milk, as found today on grocery store shelves, powdered eggs (much less commercially successful), concerned with evaluating the microbiological safety of these foods, as a graduate student at the University of Illinois (1939-40),[i] and worked in the NASA program that developed the food-in-the-toothpaste-tubes as used by American astronauts, concerned again with evaluating the microbiological safety of these foods. He spent most of his scientific career, however, testing and evaluating radiation as a food preservative, and in particular analyzing the bacteriological safety of irradiated foods, first at the U.S. Army’s Chicago Quartermaster Food and Container Institute for the Armed Forces from 1945 to 1963), and then at the U.S. Army Natick Laboratories, known familiarly simply as the Natick Labs, in Natick, Massachusetts, from 1963 to 1977), and, finally, after his official retirement, as a consultant for the Natick Labs during the summers of 1977, 1978, and 1979. During this time, he participated in petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval of irradiated foods for general human consumption, and, with Stanley Werkowski, proposed a more accurate statistical method than the Schmidt-Nank method, until then generally accepted and in wide use by bacteriologists, for modeling the death kinetics of microbial spores. The foods radiologically treated (or “radaprocessed”) by Anellis and his colleagues were analyzed and evaluated both for radiological and bacteriological safety, and then tested for palatability and for use in the NASA space flight program, and subsequently became the major part of the diet in space of American astronauts, as well, thereafter, by individuals who, suffering from immune deficiencies, must consume sterilized foods.[ii]

         2. Biographical.[iii] Food microbiologist Abe Anellis was born Avram “Abrosha” Anelis in Mogilëv, Russia (now Mahylow, Belarus’) on 15 February 1914. The son of Zvi (known as Harry and also called Herschel David) and Ida (or Zinaida, called “Shimachaya” and “Sima”) Naimark, both of Mogilëv, Harry arrived in United States in September 1913, settling in Chicago, and attended barber college. By 1923, Harry had saved enough to bring his wife and son to the U.S. They sailed from Libau, East Prussia (now Liepāja, Latvia) aboard the Russian-American Line’s ship ‘Lituania’, arriving at Ellis Island on 1 August 1923. During World War I and the Russian Civil War, mother and son made do as best they could. Anellis was temporarily left in the care of his grandmother while his mother wandered the countryside in search of work. Young Anellis set out alone in search of his mother, and was rescued and placed in the care of a Bolshevki-run orphanage, where he was taught the rudiments of reading and writing, remaining there until his mother, who had made her way to Gomel’, set out in search of Avraam. Harry Anelis was naturalized as an American citizen on January 20, 1927, while Abe was still in grammar school. Abe and Ida Anelis were derivatively naturalized along with him. Sixteen years later, age twenty-nine, while working in Peoria, Illinois, Abe Anelis sought to be naturalized independently of his father, and, received his certification of his derivative naturalization as a U.S. citizen, dated 30 April 1943, under the name Abe Anellis.
         Anelis began first grade at age nine, attending school first in Maywood, a small working-class village on the western edge of Chicago, and later in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood. After grammar school, he went on to attend Crane Technical High School in Chicago. Already interested in science, especially physics and astronomy and contemplating a career in either of those fields, Abe particularly enjoyed his high school chemistry and drafting classes, and came to consider a career in medicine. In 1993, he told reporter Rick Reed:[iv] ‘I was always interested in science. Even before I went to school. I loved science. I learned all I could.’ And again, in 1994, Reed wrote: ‘Anellis was absorbed in his work, but he considered it a labor of a different sort. “I loved it,” he said. “I loved it.” Going to work was almost like going to the playground, and the research lab was his special play area.’[v]
         Unable to afford college, and with his father vehemently opposed to the idea, instead badgering him to become a barber like himself, Abe Anellis worked by day and instead attended evening classes at Crane Junior College, where he was taught chemistry by Nicholas Dimitrius Cheronis (1896–1962). Among the Crane students invited to work in Cheronis’s laboratory was future (1979) Nobel laureate in chemistry Herbert Charles Brown ( Herbert Brovarnik; 1912–2004).[vi] From Crane, and still working his own way through school, Abe went on to the University of Illinois, earning his B.S. at that school in 1939. In Urbana-Champaign, he worked as a busboy in a fraternity house, where, in exchange, he got a free meal, and at a spice factory, hauling heavy bags on his shoulders. Of all the jobs he held during these years, the one he most preferred, however, was as an usher at Chicago’s Civic Opera House, as it enabled him to stand in the aisle, when not assisting other opera-goers to their seats, to enjoy the music and singing, and he became a life-long opera lover.
         After completing a course in inorganic chemistry at the university, in which he did quite well and which he enjoyed, Anellis went on to take a course in organic chemistry, which he found to be very difficult. It was that, coupled with a reading of Paul De Kruif’s Microbe Hunters,[vii] that led him, finally, to decide on a career as a bacteriologist. Following up on De Kruif’s book, he also read individual biographies of other bacteriologists, most notably of Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), Robert Heinrich Hermann Koch (1843–1910), and Paul Ehrlich (1854–1915). We may well imagine that his first introduction to major figures in the history of biology came from Élie Metchnikoff’s (1845–1916) Founders of Modern Medicine,[viii] which included discussions of Pasteur, Koch, and Joseph Lister (1827–1912). His personal library, catalogued by his elder son after his death, included René Jules Dubos’ Louis Pasteur and Martha Marquardt’s Paul Ehrlich.[ix] Abe also read, and possessed in his personal library, Charles Joseph Singer’s History of Biology.[x] At the University of Illinois, he also delighted in the philosophy courses of Oskar Kubitz (1898–1976), including the “Introduction to Philosophy”, and in particular Kubitz’s course on logic and scientific method.
         Anellis’s favorite professor in bacteriology, and his graduate advisor, was Halvor Orin Halvorson (1897–1975). In the 1930s, Halvorson and his colleagues had already undertaken studies in the statistical analysis of bacterial growth counts under various conditions. Statistical analysis of the death kinetics of bacteria and their toxigenic spores in irradiated foods would lead Anellis and his colleague Stanley J. Werkowski, owner of the 1949 MS degree in Materials Science from MIT, in 1968 and 1971 to propose an alternative to the Schmidt-Nank method that was in use in the 1960s, and their proposal would be partially based upon those earlier findings of Halvorson and N. R. Ziegler’s article “Application of Statistics to Problems in Bacteriology. I. A Means of Determining Bacterial Populations by the Dilution Method” in the Journal of Bacteriology of 1933.[xi] The found that this method gives results fully compatible with the methods of direct microscopic count of bacterial populations and of plate count.
         Meanwhile, it was under Professor Halvorson’s direction that Abe investigated the bacteriological safety of dehydrated milk and dehydrated eggs then being developed, and he received his M.S. in 1940 for his work on dehydrated milk.[xii] In 1940, he was appointed Special Research Assistant in Dairy Husbandry, in the University of Illinois Agricultural Station, on one-third time, by the University president, beginning December 1, 1940 and continuing through January 31, 1941, with remuneration of $50 a month.[xiii]
         In the 1970s during a visit to Anellis at the Natick Labs, his colleague, British bacteriologist Dame Jane Hobbs, reportedly said to Anellis’s wife of his work on dehydrated eggs during World War II that ‘England owes him a great debt’ for proposing dehydrated eggs as a solution to Britain’s wartime egg shortage, when shipments of raw eggs from America to England arrived broken and having thus gotten contaminated, causing salmonellosis illness and preventing Britons from consuming eggs. She proposed that, for his efforts, Abe Anellis be knighted. As an employee in the federal civil service, which prohibited its employees from accepting gratuities, however, he was obliged to forego that honor. Anellis’s earliest subsequent work on thermal processing of eggs for inhibition of salmonella in the manufacture of frozen and dried egg products was undertaken at the Chicago Quartermaster Food and Container Institute for the Armed Forces and was published in 1954, in the article “Heat Resistance in Liquid Eggs of Some Strains of the Genus Salmonella” [A2], for work done with J. Lubas and Morton M. Rayman.[xiv] Rayman, with a doctorate in biophysical chemistry from Iowa State University, died in 1994, had worked in Chemical Warfare Service in Edgewood, Maryland during World War II, and later was supervisor of grants to agriculture colleges for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Early in his career, his work included investigating ways to preserve food through freeze-drying, irradiation and with antibiotics and also ways to detoxify industrial wastes.
         While working on his doctorate, which was nearly completed save for the dissertation defense, Anellis was approached with an offer of employment with the Illinois Department of Health.[xv] He asked his advisor whether he should accept the offer, and was reminded of the economic situation of that time: ‘I asked my professor what I should do,’ Anellis was quoted as saying:[xvi] ‘He said, “Abe, don’t worry about the degree. You’re living in the Depression. You should take the job”.’[xvii] Taking his professor’s advice, he accepted the offer with the Illinois Department of Health, in Carbondale, working as a clinical bacteriologist beginning in 1940, and remained there until mid-1941.[xviii] Ultimately, the lack of a doctorate did not hinder Anellis professionally or scientifically; throughout his career with the federal government he was continually promoted, and attained in due course the civil service grade commensurate with other scientists holding a doctorate and carrying out the same level of research.
         On first of July of 1944, Anellis joined the Northern Regional Research Laboratory [NRRL] of the Bureau of Agriculture and Industrial Chemistry in the Agriculture and Research Administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Peoria, Illinois, working on the use of microbiologically produced fermentation of farm by-products for production of grain alcohol, including ethanol. The result of this work was described in the first published paper, “Influence of Proteolyptic Enzymes and Yeast Nutrients upon the Requirement for Malt in Grain Alcohol Fermentations” [A1], bearing Anellis’s name, along with those of his NRRL co-workers, J. M. Van Lanen, E. H. Le Mense, and Julian Corman; it described the use of Bacillus subtilis in the fermentation of corn and wheat slurries to produce industrial alcohol during the latter part of World War II. The laboratory also worked on the development of synthetic rubber.
         Several times during World War II, Anellis sought to enlist in the U.S. Army, expecting to serve in the Medical Corps as a microbiologist with officer rank, and, applying for Officer Candidate School, obtained a copy of the Army Officer’s Guide. He was, however, rebuffed each time, the recruitment office being instructed not to accept him, on the ground that his work as a civilian scientist was too vital to the war effort to relocate him.
         During World War II, the problem of food preservation became acute, with the U.S. military shipping foods across the globe to feed its troops in Africa, Europe, the Pacific, and elsewhere. Food contamination became a serious problem because the only method then available, thermal processing and canning, was ineffective against certain thermophilic bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum, and botulism became a severe health hazard. The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps was assigned the problem and in 1941 established the Food and Container Institute for the Armed Forces of the Quartermaster Research and Engineering Command in Chicago, on Pershing Road, behind the old Chicago stockyards. As an alternative to thermal processing, it was decided to attempt food sterilization by radaprocessing.[xix]
         On February 10, 1944 Abe Anellis returned to Chicago and became a civilian employee of the Food and Container Institute, working in food microbiology, as head of its Radiation Microbiology Unit. In 1945, Anellis married Bessie Korman, three years his senior. She died in 2004. They had two children, Irving, born in 1946, and Lawrence, born in 1950.
         Anellis continued with the Food and Container Institute until 28 June 1963, when the Institute was closed and its operations moved to the U.S. Army Natick Laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts. Anellis initially hoped to remain in Chicago, and thus applied for positions elsewhere. He received and rejected offers from Los Alamos laboratory, the Great Lakes Water Authority in Chicago, Chung-King Foods, in Barrington, Illinois, and from his former Food and Container Institute colleague Nicholas Grecz, who had meanwhile become director of the Biophysics Laboratory in the Department of Biology of the Illinois Institute of Technology. While he was considering these job, and before finally deciding to move to Massachusetts, he traveled back and forth between Chicago and Natick, to assist in establishing the food microbiology laboratory at Natick, and his colleague and supervisor, microbiologist Edward S. Josephson, director of the food irradiation lab from 1962 to 1972, thereafter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, expressed concern as to whether the food irradiation program would be viable if Anellis were not to come to the Natick Labs, and worried as well that Anellis might, after all, not move to Natick. ‘If you’re not here,’ at Natick, Josephson repeatedly told Anellis during one of these trips to Natick, ‘there is no one else who can do the work you do.’ At a meeting of the civic organization B’nai Brith to which Anellis belonged that met in Framingham, Massachusetts, some years after moving to the Natick Labs, and to which Josephson had been invited to speak on food irradiation, Josephson, on being introduced to the audience, began by exclaiming that he did ‘not know why’ they had invited him to speak, as ‘the expert in this field is seated in this room;’ and he turned the floor over to Anellis, who spoke in Josephson’s stead. Another colleague, microbiologist Fred Heiligman, also at the Natick Labs, according to Anellis’s wife, told her that Anellis was a ‘wonderful worker.’ Harlyn O. Halvorson (1925–2008) a University of Illinois Ph.D. in bacteriology in 1952, and son of Anellis’s old professor Halvor O. Halvorson, once encountered Anellis’s’ son Lawrence on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, some time in the early 1970s, and, asked if he was related to Abe Anellis; receiving an affirmative reply, the younger Halvorson responded by declaring that: ‘If you are as good as your father, then you will be a great success.’[xx] Anellis began his duties at the Natick Labs on 1 July 1963. In March 1972, while Anellis and his wife traveled to Israel as tourists, Anellis was approached by Moshe Katz with an offer of employment with the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. Anellis declined that offer and a similar one for a position in Sweden made in 1977 by his colleague Arne Brynjolfsson.
         Anellis officially began his retirement on 1 July 1977, but remained in Massachusetts that summer, whereupon he and his wife moved to their newly purchased retirement home at Hawthorne in Leesburg, Florida.[xxi] Anellis spent the summers of 1977, 1978, and 1979 in Massachusetts, working as a consultant for his former Army employer, as arranged by the Battele Institute of Durham, North Carolina, so that he could complete the projects he had worked on in previous years, begun prior to his retirement, providing instructions to his former colleagues and subordinates in conducting experiments, and producing research publications based upon that work. His final official work, carried on with Durwood B. Rowley and statistician Edward W. Ross, Jr., was read at the Interagency Botulism Research Coordinating Committee Meeting, held at the Bear River Research Station in Brigham City, Utah, on the 17th–19th of October, 1977, on “Microbiological Safety of Radappertized Beef.[xxii]
         Anellis was offered an adjunct instructorship in the biology department at Leesburg campus of Lake-Sumter Community College, but he and his wife chose instead to work as a volunteer at the local hospital, Lake Regional Medical Center [LRMC], where his principal duty for more than twenty years was to deliver records throughout the hospital. After a prolonged illness, Anellis died, on 28 August 2001, at in the nursing home owned and administered by the LRMC.

         [i]    Archival item (0).
         [ii] See Edmund M. Powers, Carl Ay, Hamed M. El-Bisi, and Durwood B. Rowley, “Bacteriology of Dehydrated Space Foods 1”, Applied Microbiology 22 (1971), 441–445 and Hamed M. El-Bisi  & See Edmund M. Powers, “The Microbiological Wholesomeness of Space Foods”, Defense Technical Information Center OAI-PMH Repository, 2006  
         For the question of microbiological safety of irradiated foods for suffers of immune deficiencies, see Marjorie Sun, “Renewed Interest in Food Irradiation: FDA ponders approval as proponents push it as an alternative to pesticides”, Science (17 February 1984) 223, p. 667.
         [iii] Biographical information is based to a great extent upon the recollections of the author, who is Anellis’s eldest son, and from conversations with he had had with his parents. See also Marian Ludlow, “All the Way from Russia”, Hawthorne Remembers, March 1998, n.p.
         [iv] See p. 8, Rick Reed, “Food for (from) Thought”, Focus Paper, February 6, 1993, 8–9.

         [v] Rick Reed, “Love of His Work Has Kept Microbiologist Fresh, Enthusiastic”, Orlando Sentinel, February 13, 1994.

         [vi] See Herbert Charles Brown, “The Herbert C. Brown Story”, Purdue University, College of Science, Department of Chemisty, asp (©2001), and html.
         [vii] Paul Henry De Kruif, Paul Henry. Microbe Hunters (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1932).
         [viii] Élie Metchnikoff, Founders of Modern Medicine (New York: Walden, 1939).
         [ix] René Dubos, Louis Pasteur: Free Lance of Science; Martha Maquardt, Paul Ehrlich: Scientist for Life (New York: Henry Schuman, 1951).
         [x] Charles Singer, A History of Biology: A General Introduction to the Study of Living Things (New York: Henry Schuman, 1931).
         [xi]  See H. O. Halvorson and N. R. Ziegler, “Application of Statistics to Problems in Bacteriology. I. A Means of Determining Bacterial Populations by the Dilution Method”, Journal of Bacteriology 25 (1933), 101–121. The other articles in this series are: “II. A Consideration of the Accuracy of Dilution Data Obtained by Using a Single Dilution”, Journal of Bacteriology 26 (1933), 331–339; “III. A Consideration of the Accuracy of Dilution Data Obtained by Using Several Dilutions”, Journal of Bacteriology 26 (1933), 559–567; “IV. Experimental Comparison of the Dilution Method, the Plate Count, and the Direct Count for the Determination of Bacterial Populations”, Journal of Bacteriology 29 (1935), 609–634. See also T. Matuszewski, J. Neyman, & J. Supińska, “The Accuracy of the ‘Dilution Method’”, in Jerzy Neyman, A Selection of Early Statistical Papers of J. Neyman (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967), pp. 209–224, a discussion and statistical evaluation of Halvorson and Ziegler’s method of analysis, concluding that it gives a range of accuracy of 95% confidence.
         [xii] Dehydrated (powdered) milk, according to historian of technology Robert James Forbes was first produced by one T. S. Grimwade in England in 1855, some two years after Gale Borden (1801–1874) produced condensed (evaporated) milk in the United States in 1853; see Robert James Forbes, Man the Maker: A History of Technology and Engineering (New York: Henry Schuman, 1950), p. 314.
           [xiii] Harrison Edward Cunningham, Secretary, University of Illinois, “Board of Trustees Minutes – 1942”, Transactions of the Board of Trustees, July 17, 1940 to June 20, 1942, p. 147.
         [xiv] E.g., Rayman also collaborated with Anne F. Byrne and Morris D. Schneider on “Methods for the Detection and Estimation of Numbers of Salmonella in Dried Eggs and Other Food Products”, Applied Environmental Microbiology 3 (1955), 368–372.
         [xv] Reed, op. cit., p. 8, erroneously asserted that the job offer referred to came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are a number of errors and confusions in Reed’s article.
         [xvi] By Reed, op. cit., p. 8; see also p. 3, Marian Ludlow “Microbial Work is No Small Task: Scientist’s achievements recognized in research”, The Lake Sentinel, Wednesday, December 27, 1989, 3–4.

         [xvii] See Rick Reed, “Love of His Work Has Kept Microbiologist Fresh, Enthusiastic”. One wonders, however, whether those living in the midst of the Depression actually called it that, at the time.

         [xviii] Anellis’s widow believed that Anellis’s first employment at the Illinois Department of Health involved research, with Alexander Fleming (1881–1951), on penicillin, and she asserted that she had this impression directly from her husband. I have found no documentation to show, however, that Fleming ever worked in the United States or even left Britain.
         [xix] For a brief account of the history of the U.S. Army’s food program, see Patricia Prell, “Every Chow Line Leads to Natick — All Military Menus Are Tested and Approved at Natick”, The Warrior (November-December 1998); For a history of the U.S. Army Natick Labs, see Alan R. Earls, U.S. Army Natick Laboratories: The Science Behind the Soldier (Charleston, SC Arcadia, 2005).
         [xx] Lawrence failed to recall this incident, which was conveyed by Anellis’s widow, once around the time it allegedly occurred, and then while this article was in preparation.
         [xxi] Marian Ludlow, “All the Way from Russia”, Hawthorne Remembers, March 1998, n.p.
         [xxii] See Abe Anellis, Durwood B. Rowley, & Edward W. Ross, Jr., “Microbiological Safety of Radappertized Beef”, Proceedings of the 1st International Congress on Engineering and Food (Boston), August 9–13, 1976 (1976) [A29] and Abe Anellis, Durwood B. Rowley, & Edward W. Ross, Jr. “Microbiological Safety of Radappertized Beef”, Journal of Food Protection 42 (no. 12, December 1979), pp. 927–932 [A36].
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