Conn Family Papers
Scope and Contents
Manuscripts, legal records, correspondence, and clippings focus on the work of Herbert W. Conn, a professor of Biology at Wesleyan University in the late 1800s. Conn gained fame at the time for his research in dairy microbiology and his public health efforts in dairy hygiene and milk pasteurization, a controversial issue at the turn of the century. A prolific writer of science for the public, Conn’s books were read by Mark Twain and his influence on Twain’s work is not well-documented. Although he was not a member of the faculty at what was then the Connecticut Agricultural College (University of Connecticut), he was the driving force in establishing the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station. The collection includes information on family members Julia Conn and Harold J. Conn.
- Creation: 1881-1944
In the fall semester of 2010 Professor Kenneth Noll of the Molecular and Cell Biology department in UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences worked with freshmen Honors students on an exhibit about the convergence of Mark Twain and Herbert W. Conn in Twain’s work '3,000 Years Among the Microbes.' The exhibit was displayed in the Homer Babbidge Library at UConn and included examples of Conn’s books including Conn’s book that Twain used as a resource for his story, “The Story of Germ Life.” It also featured quotes from Mark Twain, examples of Conn’s dairy microbiology research reports, descriptions of the lives of two men, and slides with photographs and newspaper clippings from their times.
On his summer holiday in 1905, Samuel Clemens wrote a story entitled “3000 Years Among the Microbes” to get some long-standing ideas on paper. Though Twain was initially very excited to write the story and wrote over 100,000 words, the creative spark soon left him and the story was left unfinished.
In this work Twain used microbes to tell a story much like “Gulliver’s Travels,” satirizing the society and politics of his day as well as man’s inflated notions of his place in the universe. To tell his tale accurately, he turned to the most famous microbiologist of his time, Herbert W. Conn. H. W. Conn was a professor of Biology at Wesleyan University and was world famous for his research in dairy microbiology and his public health efforts in dairy hygiene and milk pasteurization, a controversial issue at the turn of the last century. A prolific writer of science for the public, Conn’s books were read by Twain and his influence on Twain’s story is obvious.
The Library exhibit contained photos and items from the archives of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center showing Conn’s scientific contribution to Connecticut through his work at the Storrs Agricultural Station and his founding of the Department of Bacteriology at the Storrs Agricultural College, forerunner of the University of Connecticut. Photos from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair showed the scene of Conn’s dairy microbiology exhibit there. Photos from Twain’s life in Connecticut showed his integration with the intellectual life of the state. These
0.75 Linear Feet (1 small box of textual materials (mss, legal records, correspondence, clippings))
Language of Materials
- Conn Family Papers
- Under Revision
- Archives & Special Collections staff
- 2015 September 10
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