George Miller Sternberg
General George Miller Sternberg
Brigadier General George Miller Sternberg


June 8, 1838(1838-06-08)


November 3, 1915

Brigadier General George Miller Sternberg (June 8, 1838 – November 3, 1915) was a U.S. Army physician who is considered to have been the first bacteriologist in the United States. He was the 18th U.S. Army Surgeon General from 1893 to 1902. Pioneering German bacteriologist Robert Koch honored him with the sobriquet, "Father of American Bacteriology".




The young Dr Sternberg

Sternberg was promoted to captain on May 28, 1866 and was soon sent to Fort Riley, Kansas (December 1867). With troops from this post he took part (1868-69) in several expeditions against hostile Cheyenne Indians along the upper Arkansas River in Indian Territory and in western Kansas. Besides his military duties, Sternberg was also interested in fossils and began collecting leaf imprints from the nearby Dakota Sandstone Formation. Some of his specimens went back East where they were studied by the famous paleobotanist, Leo Lesquereux.

Sternberg also collected vertebrate fossils, including shark teeth, fish remains and mosasaur bones, from the Smoky Hill Chalk and Pierre Shale formations in western Kansas, and sent the specimens back to Washington, D.C., where they were eventually curated in the United States National Museum (Smithsonian Institution). There they were studied and later described in publications by Joseph Leidy. The type specimen of the giant Late Cretaceous fish, Xiphactinus audax, was collected by Dr. Sternberg. His work was also credited by Edward Drinker Cope and Samuel W. Williston. Sternberg was also responsible for getting his younger brother, Charles H. Sternberg, started in paleontology. Charles would later credit his older brother for getting many other paleontologists of the day interested in the fossil resources of Kansas.

Sternberg served at Fort Riley until July 1870, when be was ordered to Governors Island, New York. In the meantime, he had remarried on September 1, 1869, at Indianapolis, Indiana, to Martha L. Pattison, a daughter of Thomas T. N. Pattison of that city.

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