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, pictured below), Francis C. Harrison, Robert S. Breed, Bernard W. Hammer and Frank M. Huntoon. This Board, under the auspices of the Society of American Bacteriologists, brought the first edition of the Manual into print in 1923. The Board, with some changes in membership and Dr 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. 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.
Formation of the Trust
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 Everitt 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 as well as other activities promoting systematics.
Since the creation of the Trust, the Trustees have published, successively, the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth editions of the Manual (dated 1934, 1939, 1948, 1957, 1974 and 1994, 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 or references to authors.
Beyond the Determinative
Other ventures in producing books to assist those engaged in bacteriology and bacterial taxonomy, in particular, include the Index Bergeyana (1966), and a Supplement to Index Bergeyana (1981). In 1984, the Trust inititated publication of Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, which had a much broader scope than the previous publications and was intended to act as the amplified source for revision of the determinative Manual.Two editions of Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology have been published. The first edition comprised four volumes, published 1984-1989. The second edition comprised five volumes, published 2001-2012. Upon completion of the second edition, publication of the online Bergey's Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria was initiated in 2015 and has been updated continuously since then.
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 presentations of the Bergey Award and Bergey Medal.
A fuller account of the history and development of the Trust and the Manuals is printed in Vol. 2A of the Second Edition of the Systematics as well as online in Bergey's Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria.
The purpose of the society is to promote excellent research in microbial systematics as well as enhance global communication among taxonomists who study the Bacteria and Archaea. The society also serves internationally as an advocate for research efforts on microbial systematics and diversity.
The Trust recognizes that the vast diversity of microbial life is the last remaining major reservoir of unknown biological diversity on Earth. A principal goal of the society is to comprehend this vast but largely unstudied diversity with its untapped genetic, enzymic and industrial potential. A basic aim of the society is to foster efforts to isolate novel microorganisms in pure culture and to describe, name and classify them.