Jessie Isabelle Price is known for her work as a veterinary microbiologist who developed vaccines to fight off organisms killing ducks and waterfowl. Born on January 1, 1930 in Montrose, Pennsylvania, she was raised by her single mother, Teresa Price who encouraged working hard in school. After attending her predominantly white public schools in the neighborhood, she was accepted into Cornell University.
After graduating high school, Price decided to move to Ithaca, New York to attend another year of high school there to make sure she was prepared for the rigor of Cornell. She was able to advance her studies and her resident status gave her free tuition and required her to pay for housing, books, and non-refundable fees.
Price graduated from the College of Agriculture at Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1953. In 1956, she returned to Cornell to earn her master’s degree, graduating in 1959 with a master’s degree in veterinary bacteriology, pathology, and parasitology. That same year she earned her Ph.D. with a dissertation on “Studies on Pasteurella anatipestifer Infection in white Pekin Ducklings” which was published in the Journal of Avian Diseases.
In 1959 Price also began working as a research specialist at the Cornell University Duck Research Laboratory in Eastport, Long Island. Her research focused on the identification and control of bacterial diseases in commercial white Pekin ducklings. In the next eighteen years in this position, Price found a way to reproduce the disease and began injecting it in into ducks with a vaccine that revealed the different causes of the duck mortality. To present her research, in 1966, Price was given a travel grant from the National Science Foundation to attend the 9th International Congress for Microbiology in Moscow, U.S.S.R.
By 1974, Price had developed two vaccines at the Cornell University Duck Research Laboratory that were commercially used by Pekin duck farmers in Long Island, the Midwest, and Canada. Commercial turkey farmers also used one of her vaccines and a salmonella vaccine was used by commercial pigeon farmers.
In 1977, after her eighteen-year work as a research specialist, Price left the Duck Disease Research laboratory and moved to Madison, Wisconsin to work for the National Wildlife Health Center of the National Biological Service as a research microbiologist. Her work mainly consisted of understanding the interactions between diseases in wildlife and environmental contaminants specifically in waterfowl. Her goal was to identify the microbial diseases to reduce wildlife mortality. In another research project, she was able to determine why some wetlands had a higher frequency of cholera outbreaks. That research led to better control of avian cholera.
Price also served as an adjunct assistant professor between 1963 and 1969 at Long Island University in Westhampton Beach in New York, and between 1969 and 1976 she taught earth sciences as an adjunct professor at Southampton College of Long Island University. Price was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Women in Science and a member of the Committee on the Status of Microbiologists and the Committee of the Status of Women Microbiologists where she served as a chair from 1978 to 1979.
On November 12, 2015, Jessie Isabelle Price died in Madison, Wisconsin the age of 85 from Lewy Body Disease/ Alzheimer’s.