History of Bergey's Manual

The first edition of Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology was initiated by action of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now called the American Society for Microbiology) by appointment of an Editorial Board consisting of David H. Bergey, Chairman, Francis C. Harrison, Robert S. Breed, Bernard W. Hammer, and Frank M. Huntoon. This Board, under auspices of the Society of American Bacteriologists who, then as now, published the Journal of Bacteriology as a service to science, brought the first edition of the Manual into print in 1923. The Board, with some changes in membership and Dr. David Bergey as Chairman, published a second edition of the Manual in 1925 and a third edition in 1930.

In 1934, during preparation of the fourth edition, Dr. Bergey requested that the Society of American Bacteriologists make available the royalties paid to the Treasurer of the Society from the sale of the earlier editions to defray the expense of preparing the fourth edition for publication. The Society made such provision, but the use of the Society's fiscal machinery proved cumbersome, both to the Society and the Editorial Board. Subsequently, it was agreed by the Society and Dr. Bergey that the Society would transfer to Dr. Bergey all of its rights, title, and interest in the Manual and that Dr. Bergey would, in turn, create an educational trust to which all rights would be transferred.

Dr. Bergey was then the nominal owner of the Manual and he executed a Trust Indenture on January 2, 1936 designating David H. Bergey, Robert S. Breed, and E. G. D. Murray as the initial trustees, and transferring to the Trustees and their successors the ownership of the Manual, its copyrights, and the right to receive the income arising from its publication. The Trust is a nonprofit organization and its income is used solely for the purpose of preparing, editing, and publishing revisions and successive editions of the Manual and any supplementary publications, as well as providing for any research that may be necessary or desirable in such activities.

Since the creation of the Trust, the Trustees have published, successively, the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth editions of the Manual (dated 1934, 1939, 1948, 1957, and 1974, respectively). In 1977 the Trust published an abbreviated version of the eighth edition, called The Shorter Bergey's Manual® of Determinative Bacteriology; this contained the outline classification of the bacteria, the descriptions of all genera and higher taxa, all of the keys and tables for the diagnosis of species, all of the illustrations, and two of the introductory chapters; however, it did not contain the detailed species descriptions, most of the taxonomic comments, the etymology of names, and references to authors.

Other ventures in producing books to assist those engaged in bacteriology and bacterial taxonomy in particular include the Index Bergeyana (1966), a Supplement to Index Bergeyana (1981), and a planned future volume bringing the lists of published names up to date. The Trust is presently publishing the first edition of Bergey's Manual® of Systematic Bacteriology, which has a much broader scope than the previous publications and is intended to act as the amplified source for revision of the determinative Manual.

Through the years the Manual has become a widely used international reference work for bacterial taxonomy. Similarly, the Bergey's Manual® Trust has become international in its composition, in the location of its meetings and in the breadth of its consultations. In addition to its publication activities, the Trust attempts to foster and support various aspects of taxonomic research. One of the ways in which it does this is by recognizing those individuals who have made outstanding contributions to bacterial taxonomy, through its periodic presentation of the Bergey Award, an effort jointly supported by funds from the Trust and Williams & Wilkins (now Lippencott William & Wilkins)(1979-1998) and Springer-Verlag (1999-present).

The following individuals have served as members of the Board of Trustees

David H. Bergey Stephen P. Lapage
David R. Boone Hans Lautrop
Robert S. Breed John Liston
Don J. Brenner A. G. Lockhead
Marvin P. Bryant James W. Moulder
R. E. Buchanan E. G. D. Murray
Richard W. Castenholz R. G. E. Murray
Harold J. Conn Charles F. Niven, Jr.
Samuel T. Cowan Norbert Pfennig
eoffrey Edsall Frederick A. Rainey
George M. Garrity Arnold W. Raven
Norman E. Gibbons Karl-Heinz Schleifer
Michael Goodfellow Nathan R. Smith
Bernard W. Hammer Peter H. A. Sneath
Francis C. Harrison James T. Staley
A. Parker Hitchens Roger Y. Stanier
John G. Holt Joseph G. Tully
Frank M. Huntoon Jan Ursing
Noel R. Krieg Stanley T. Williams

top of page

The Board of Trustees

Editorial Office
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1101
Telephone 517-432-2457
fax 517-432-2458

George M. Garrity, Editor-in-Chief, Treasurer
Department of Microbiology
152 Giltner Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1101 517-432-2459
James T. Staley, Chairman
Department of Microbiology, Mailstop SC-42
University of Washington
G-311 Health Science Center
Seattle, WA 98195-0001
David R. Boone, Vice-chairman
Department of Environmental Biology
Portland State University
P.O. Box 751
Portland, OR 97207-0751
Don J. Brenner, Secretary
2292 Fair Oaks Road
Decatur, GA 30333
Richard W. Castenholz
Department of Biology
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1210
Michael Goodfellow
Department of Microbiology
University of Newcastle
The Medical School
Framlington Place
Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE2 4HH, United Kingdom
Noel R. Krieg
Department of Biology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0406
Frederick A. Rainey
Department of Biological Sciences
Louisiana State University
Room 508
Life Sciences Bldg.
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Karl-Heinz Schleifer
Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie
Technische Universität München
Am Hochanger 4
D-80290 München, Germany

Emeritus Members

top of page

The Bergey Award

The Bergey Award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to bacterial taxonomy.


top of page

The Bergey Medal

The Bergey Medal is given in recognition of life-long contributions to the field of systematic bacteriology.


top of page