Robert Traub, ESA Fellow (1996)

Dr. Robert Traub (deceased 21 December 1996), a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), was elected as Fellow in 1991. He is internationally recognized for research on medically significant arthropods including members of Siphonaptera and Trombidiformes. His contributions included developing an antibiotic therapy for scrub typhus and helping to found the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Dr. Traub was born in New York, NY on 26 October 1916 to Hungarian immigrant parents. From an early age he was fascinated with collecting biological specimens, especially reptiles and amphibians. He met his future wife during his teenage years while spending summers on a farm in Delaware where he acquired a lifelong interest in gardening. It was not until graduate school that he had a formal introduction to entomology.

Dr. Traub attended City College of New York, graduating with a B.S. in biology in 1938. He went on to receive an M.S. in medical entomology and a minor in veterinary bacteriology from Cornell University in 1939. In 1942 he entered a doctoral program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, but interrupted his studies to join the U.S. Army in 1943. He returned to complete his studies and graduated in 1947 with his Ph.D. in medical entomology and a minor in helminthology.

Dr. Traub’s experience in the U.S. Army began with a tour in the China-Burma-India Theater of WWII. Other assignments included the U.S. Army Typhus Commission, being stationed at U.S. Army Medical Research Units in Malaysia and Borneo, and contributing to the Commission on Hemorrhagic Fever in Korea. He held several positions during his career including: chief of the Department of Entomology at the Walter Reed Medical Center from 1946–1955, commanding officer of the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 1955–1959, and chief of the Entomological Research Branch and interim chief of the Preventive Medicine Branch at the Army Medical Research and Development Command from 1959–1962. In 1962, Dr. Traub retired at the rank of colonel and became a professor at the UMB School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology, a position he held until 1983. When he retired from teaching, he was named honorary curator of Ceratophyllidae for the Smithsonian Institution and occupied this role until 1994.

Throughout his career, Dr. Traub identified and described many organisms including: 30 new genera/subgenera and 114 species/subspecies of fleas. During his studies, Dr. Traub developed a theory on the evolution of the 2,200 flea species and the influence of continental drift on species diversity. He wrote, or helped release, over 200 technical publications and established a collection of fleas considered one of the two best in the world.

Dr. Traub received several prestigious awards and honors including being a member of an Army research team with Dr. Theodore Woodward that was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1948 for investigating scrub typhus, and being awarded the Harry Hoogstraal Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Entomology in 1989 by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

(updated August, 2011)