A3: Epithet Epitaphs

Coxiella burnetii is a gram-negative rod shaped bacteria first isolated in the 1930s by both Frank MacFarlane Burnet and Herald Rea Cox. Though both Burnet and Cox isolated this bacterium in 1930s they did so independently. While Burnet and his associates were working on the isolation of  the pathogen associated with Query Fever in Australia, Cox was working on the isolation of the pathogen in Nine Mile Valley of Montana. Thus, the bacteria was renamed from Rickettsia burnetii to Coxiella burnetii in 1948 once it was realized that the two research groups were working on the same pathogen (Minnick & Raghaven, 2014)

Given this incidence of naming. There is no Latin Binomial name correlation other than the accreditation of these two researchers with the discovery.

Frank Macfarlane Burnet (1899-1985) was born in Traralgon, Australia. Upon accreditation and finalization of medical school at the University of Melbourne he received his Ph.D. from the University of London. One of his early achievements included developing the technique of culturing viruses in chicken embryos. He also developed the clonal selection theory of antibody formation which laid the foundation for modern immunology. (Britannica) For his work on Immunology and virology he was awarded the Copley Medal in 1959. The following year he was awarded to Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet and Peter Brian Medawar for their combined discovery of acquired immunological tolerance.

Herald Rea Cox (1907-1986) was born in Terre Haute, Indiana and obtained his doctorate from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  (Herald R. Cox, ScD, 2017) He joined the U.S. Public Health Service in 1930 and began studying Mountain Spotted Fever or “Nine Mile Virus’ isolating the Coxiella burnetii in 1938, which allowed his development of vaccines to combat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Q Fever) as well as for several strains of typhus.  In 1942 he moved to New York and became the chairman of the Virus and Rickettsia Research Department where he a worked in conjunction with several other researchers to develop the Polio vaccination (H.R. Cox, 2018)


Britannica, E. o. (n.d.). Sir Macfarlane Burnet Australian Physician. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 20 January, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Macfarlane-Burnet

H.R. Cox. (2018). Revolvy. Retrieved from https://www.revolvy.com/page/H.-R.-Cox

Herald R. Cox, ScD. (2017). Johns Hopkins Heroes of Public Health. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from https://www.jhsph.edu/about/history/heroes-of-public-health/herald-cox.html

Minnick, M., & Raghaven, R. (2014, July 21). Genetics of Coxiella burnetii: on the path of specialzation. Future Microbiology, 6(11), 1297-1314. doi:10.2217/fmb.11.116


Samantha Smith

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *