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History of the Saranac Laboratory at Saranac Lake, New York


Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau came to the Adirondacks in 1873. He was seriously ill with tuberculosis. Here his health improved in the mountain climate. After seven years, Trudeau built a winter home in Saranac Lake. It happened after repeated attempts to return to New York City, all with harmful effects on his health. He founded the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium to care for incipient tuberculosis cases among the working poor.

Dr. Robert Koch delivered a lecture titled “The Etiology of Tuberculosis” on March 24, 1882, in Germany. The paper’s shocking conclusion that the tubercle bacillus was the disease’s causative agent was a revelation at the time. It captured Trudeau’s attention when he read the paper’s abstract in medical publications. It was a very comprehensive translation and handwritten copybook. Thus, it was C.M. Lea’s Christmas gift to the doctor. I read it word for word over and over,” Trudeau wrote.

Trudeau was resolved to learn how to stain the tubercle bacillus. He also learned how to identify it under a microscope to do Koch’s studies for himself. He did it after being persuaded by Koch’s reasoning and inspired by the prospect of a cure. Dr. T. Mitchell Prudden’s improvised laboratory in New York was where Trudeau spent several days. He worked through the challenging process until he was competent enough to work.


According to Trudeau, “I started working in the fall of 1885, as soon as I had outfitted my small laboratory room.” He initially worked in his eight by the twelve-foot home office. Alfred Donaldson, a historian, remarked that the residents used kerosene to light the lamps. But unfortunately, it also used wood to heat the space. Hence “on really cold nights, the doctor often had to get up and replace the fuel.” According to Trudeau, “These lodgings were so little that I quickly built a small annex off my office. Thus, it became the laboratory in which I worked until 1893.”


Dr. E.L. Trudeau had to improvise specific apparatus to sustain the continual high temperature. It was required for germs to proliferate. It was because of the extreme cold alpine setting in which he worked. Moreover, it was necessary to maintain the heat for a more extended period than any disease-producing microbes identified before. Trudeau succeeded in cultivating a tubercle bacillus pure culture after numerous failed efforts. Thus, they made him “the second experimenter in the country.” I reran all of Koch’s inoculation tests using these cultures before starting new ones.

Young Dr. E. R. Baldwin was from New Haven, Connecticut. He applied for admission to the sanitarium in December 1892. In response to what led him to believe about his tuberculosis? Trudeau writes, “He stunned me by his answer. He said that, “he had used his microscope and knew he had TB.” The day he arrived in town, he came to the laboratory at my invitation. He volunteered to assist me in any way.

Dr. Allen K. Krause recalled that Baldwin used to bring his collection of literature over to the physician’s home in the evening. He read to the physician about the state of tuberculosis, particularly in Germany. Meanwhile, Trudeau informed him about the situation in France. For scientific work, “this couple made almost the perfect combo.”


The Trudeau family’s home was destroyed by fire in late 1893. An imported laboratory heater started a fire while they were gone. Dr. William Osler comforted the Phoenix feat can only be performed by fire.

The day after the fire, Trudeau’s doctor and friend, George C. Cooper, visited him. They offered him “a good stone and steel laboratory, one that can never burn up.” It is entirely according to your wishes. I’ll gladly pay for it and deliver it to you in person. Cooper and Trudeau each wanted to name it after the other. But, ultimately, they settled on “Saranac Laboratory.” Thus, the Saranac laboratory came into existence.


Dr. Trudeau offered a plot of land, “half of my house lot on Church Street, convenient for Dr. Baldwin and for me,” It was created for Dr. Trudeau by his cousin J. Lawrence Aspinwall. He was a junior partner in James Renwick’s firm Renwick, Aspinwall & Renwick in New York City. They constructed the laboratory between May and November of 1894. Total expenditure was about $20,000 by the Saranac Lake-based Branch and Callanan Lumber Company.

The Saranac Laboratory was the first facility created in the country solely for tuberculosis research. Trudeau and Aspinwall planned this laboratory to focus on fire safety, lighting, and ventilation. Moreover, they paid particular focus to sanitation. Trudeau stated in his letter, “We never had any opening ceremonies. When everything was ready, Baldwin and I started moving the tools. He says we were already using from the small shed next to the barn to our lovely new quarters.


Aspinwall also designed a new Colonial Revival house and office. Its objective was to replace the destroyed Queen Anne-style residence. These structures are still in use today as the offices of Medical Associates, the doctor’s former practice’s successor.

As a hunter and because they were more widely available in the country, Trudeau may have utilized animal subjects in his laboratory research earlier than his peers in the city. The laboratory’s initial blueprints included provisions for animal facilities. Cages housing at least 100 animals, such as rabbits, birds, and guinea pigs, are in the basement. They receive good treatment. Neither the illness nor the way of their death causes them any suffering. The American Medical Association Journal published an article by Trudeau in 1910: “Thanks to animal testing, we know today that tuberculosis is not an inheritable disease. It is contagious and thus prevented; in its earlier stages, it is treatable.

For more excellent room to raise experimental animals, they constructed a rear expansion to the building in 1926. The concrete floor is still visible even though they demolished it sometime around 1970. The John Black Room and above offices are part of the 1934 extension to the left wing. Finally, they moved the ongoing investigations from the Saranac Laboratory to the newly established Trudeau Institute in 1964. Hence, this is where Dr. E.L. You can still feel Trudeau’s effect on science.

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Paul Smith’s College 1966 took the laboratory building and housed students until the college’s new facility next door opened in 1987. In 1998, Historic Saranac Lake purchased the former Saranac Laboratory. It painstakingly refurbished it and inaugurated it as a museum in 2009.

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