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August 1 1985

Oral History Interview


This is an interview with Dr. Edgar Ribi at his office in Hamilton, Montana, August 1, 1985. Electron microscopes, Ph.D. dissertation and postgraduate work are the topics of the interview.     


ER:                              We came to the tubercle bacillus this is a (bacciphagi?, BCG) organism. That was at the time when Dr. Smadel came to the lab for a review. He was very excited about what we had been doing so far, but he said, and I told him when I shake this culture, this tubercule bacillus, it breaks up but it comes to a bubble like consistency. You cannot make nice cell walls when you shake it; you just make bubbles.  I said to Smadel that I thought there is a possibility instead of shaking I would like to use the principle of rapid pressure and reversal, namely the pressure cell to put the bugs under high pressure and release of the orifice of the needle valve so that the bug comes out, and collapses.  It is extruded that I wouldn't have to shake it and I would like to buy a press cylinder.  Smadel said, look, that won't work, you not going to do that. I said, look, I am not married to you, I can always go back and make this in Switzerland but I want to try that. So, that was when the Montana Tuberculosis Association met.  The meeting was in Missoula and I went there and told them, would you mind giving me $550 to buy a press cylinder and I'm going to try that.  And they did.  So I used the press, and I used high pressure.  When I looked under the microscope I saw some cell walls, but the rest didn't look good.  The protoplasm was all coagulated because of the heat effect.  So I went back to an old principle used in electronmicroscopy, the carbon dioxide chamber and I cooled the orifice of the needle valve down to -50C and applied the pressure and out came this beautiful phenomenon and here are these cell walls. Just a ghost left.  Okay? That's what I ended up. They gave me a medal for it.