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Fanny Hesse, ca. 1883

Fanny Hesse (born Angelina Fanny Elishemius, June 22, 1850 – December 1, 1934)[1] is best known for her work in microbiology alongside her husband, Walther Hesse. Together they were instrumental in developing Agar as a medium for culturing microorganisms.[2]



Hesse was born in 1850 in New York City to Gottfried Elishemius, a wealthy import merchant, and his wife, Ceclie Elise.[1] She met her husband and research partner Walther Hesse in 1872 while in Germany. They were engaged in 1873, and married in 1874 in Geneva.[3]

Research contributionsEdit

In 1881, while working for her husband as a technician in the laboratory of German physician and microbiologist Robert Koch, Hesse suggested that agar was preferable to gelatin for cultivating bacteria. This led to Koch using agar to cultivate the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.[3]

Prior to her discovery, Hesse, working unpaid, would make drawings for her husband's publications.[3] While Koch, in an 1882 paper on tuberculosis bacilli, mentioned he used agar instead of gelatin, he did not credit Fanny or Walther Hesse, or mention why he made the switch. Fanny Hesse's suggestion never resulted in financial benefit for the Hesse family.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Hesse, Wolfgang (1992). "Walther and Angelina Hesse - Early Contributions to Bacteriology" (PDF). American Society for Microbiology. 
  2. ^ "The Forgotten Woman Who Made Microbiology Possible". LadyBits. 14 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Haines, Catharine M. C. (2001-01-01). International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576070901. 

External linksEdit