|Born||September 13, 1851|
Gloucester County, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||November 23, 1902 (aged 51)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Buried||(Section 3, Lot 1864 Grid T/U-16.5 - Arlington National Cemetery)|
|Years of service||1876–1902|
|Alma mater|| University of Virginia |
New York University
Johns Hopkins University
|Spouse(s)||Emilie Lawrence (m. 1876)|
|Children|| Walter Lawrence Reed (born December 4, 1877, Ft. Apache)|
Emilie Reed (called Blossom) (born July 12, 1883, Ft. Omaha)
Susie Reed (adopted aboriginal American child)
Major Walter Reed, M.D., U.S. Army (September 13, 1851 – November 22, 1902), was a U.S. Army physician who in 1901, led the team that confirmed the theory of the Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species, rather than by direct contact. This insight gave impetus to the new fields of epidemiology and biomedicine, and most immediately allowed the resumption and completion of work on the Panama Canal (1904–1914) by the United States. Reed followed work started by Carlos Finlay and directed by George Miller Sternberg, who has been called the "first U.S. bacteriologist".
Walter Reed was born in Belroi, Virginia, to Lemuel Sutton Reed (a traveling Methodist minister) and his first wife, Pharaba White.During his youth, the family resided at Murfreesboro, North Carolina with his mother's family during his father's preaching tours. Two of his elder brothers later achieved distinction: J.C. became a minister in Virginia like their father, and Christopher a judge in Wichita, Kansas and later St. Louis, Missouri, Their childhood home is included in the Murfreesboro Historic District.
After the American Civil War, Rev. Reed remarried, to Mrs. Mary C. Byrd Kyle of Harrisonburg, Virginia, with whom he would have a daughter. Young Walter enrolled at the University of Virginia. After two years, Reed completed the M.D. degree in 1869, two months before he turned 18. He was the youngest-ever recipient of an M.D. from the university.
Reed then enrolled at the New York University's Bellevue Hospital Medical College in Manhattan, New York, where he obtained a second M.D. in 1870, as his brother Christopher attempted to set up a legal practice. After interning at several New York City hospitals, Walter Reed worked for the New York Board of Health until 1875.
He married Emily Blackwell Lawrence (1856–1950) of North Carolina on April 26, 1876 and took her West with him. Later, Emily would give birth to a son, Walter Lawrence Reed (1877–1956) and a daughter, Emily Lawrence Reed (1883–1964), and the couple also adopted an aboriginal American girl named Susie, while posted at frontier camps.
Finding his youth limited his influence, and dissatisfied with urban life,Reed joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps. This allowed him both professional opportunities and modest financial security to establish and support a family. After Reed passed a grueling thirty-hour examination in 1875, the army medical corps enlisted him as an assistant surgeon. By this time, two of his brothers were working in Kansas, and Walter soon was assigned postings in the American West. Over the next sixteen years, the Army assigned the career officer to different outposts, where he was responsible not only for American military and their dependents, but also various aboriginal American tribes, at one point looking after several hundred Apaches, including Geronimo. Reed noticed the devastation epidemics could wreak and maintained his concerns about sanitary conditions. During one of his last tours, he completed advanced coursework in pathology and bacteriology in the Johns Hopkins University Hospital Pathology Laboratory.
While stationed at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, Reed treated the ankle of Swiss immigrant Jules Sandoz, broken by a fall into a well. Reed wanted to amputate Sandoz's foot, but Sandoz refused his consent, and Reed succeeded in saving the foot by an extensive course of treatment. A photograph of a letter from Reed to Sandoz's father is reproduced in the first edition of Old Jules, the 1935 biography of Sandoz by his daughter Mari Sandoz.
In 1893, Reed joined the faculty of the George Washington University School of Medicine and the newly opened Army Medical School in Washington, D.C., where he held the professorship of Bacteriology and Clinical Microscopy. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he actively pursued medical research projects and served as the curator of the Army Medical Museum, which later became the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM). These positions also allowed Reed to break free from the fringes of the medical world.
In 1896, Reed first distinguished himself as a medical investigator. He proved that yellow fever among enlisted men stationed near the Potomac River was not a result of drinking the river water. He showed officials that the enlisted men who got yellow fever had a habit of taking trails through the local swampy woods at night. Their yellow fever-free fellow officers did not do so. Reed also proved that the local civilians drinking from the Potomac River had no relation to the incidence of the disease.
Reed traveled to Cuba to study diseases in U.S. Army encampments there during the Spanish–American War. Appointed chairman of a panel formed in 1898 to investigate an epidemic of typhoid fever, Reed and his colleagues showed that contact with fecal matter and food or drink contaminated by flies caused that epidemic. Yellow fever also became a problem for the Army during this time, felling thousands of soldiers in Cuba.
In May 1900, Major Reed returned to Cuba when he was appointed head of the Army board charged by Surgeon General George Miller Sternberg to examine tropical diseases, including yellow fever. Sternberg was one of the founders of bacteriology during this time of great advances in medicine due to widespread acceptance of Louis Pasteur's germ theory of disease, as well as the methods of studying bacteria developed by Robert Koch. During Reed's tenure with the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba, the board both confirmed the transmission by mosquitoes and disproved the common belief that yellow fever could be transmitted by clothing and bedding soiled by the body fluids and excrement of yellow fever sufferers – articles known as fomites. The board conducted many of its dramatic series of experiments at Camp Lazear, named in November 1900 for Reed's assistant and friend Jesse William Lazear, who had died two months earlier of yellow fever while on this assignment.
The risky but fruitful research work was done with human volunteers, including some of the medical personnel, such as Clara Maass, who allowed themselves to be deliberately infected. The research work with the disease under Reed's leadership was largely responsible for stemming the mortality rates from yellow fever during the building of the Panama Canal, something that had confounded the French attempts in that region only 20 years earlier.
Although Reed received much of the credit in history books for "beating" yellow fever, Reed himself credited Carlos Finlay with the discovery of the yellow fever vector, and thus how it might be controlled. Reed often cited Finlay's papers in his own articles and gave him credit for the discovery, even in his personal correspondence. The Cuban physician was a strong advocate of the transmission theory as the cause of yellow fever and discovered the type of mosquito that transmits yellow fever. His unsophisticated experiments that proved this were discounted by many, but were the basis of Reed's research.In addition, the politics and ethics of the use of medical and military personnel as research subjects have been questioned. Medical ethicists are concerned “about the recruitment of patients into experiments....”
After Reed returned from Cuba in 1901, he continued to speak and publish on yellow fever. He received honorary degrees from Harvard and the University of Michigan in recognition of his seminal work.
In November 1902, Reed's appendix ruptured. He died on November 23, 1902, of the resulting peritonitis, at age 51. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Reed's breakthrough in yellow fever research is widely considered a milestone in biomedicine, opening new vistas of research and humanitarianism. It was largely an extension of Carlos J. Finlay's work, carried out during the 1870s in Cuba, which finally came to prominence in 1900. Finlay was the first to theorize, in 1881, that a mosquito was a carrier, now known as a disease vector, of the organism causing yellow fever: a mosquito that bites a victim of the disease could subsequently bite and thereby infect a healthy person. He presented this theory at the 1881 International Sanitary Conference, where it was well-received. A year later Finlay identified a mosquito of the genus Aedes as the organism transmitting yellow fever. His theory was followed by the recommendation to control the mosquito population as a way to control the spread of the disease.
His hypothesis and exhaustive proofs were confirmed nearly twenty years later by the Walter Reed Commission of 1900. Although Reed received much of the credit in history books for "beating" yellow fever, Reed himself credited Finlay with the discovery of the yellow fever vector, and thus how it might be controlled. Reed often cited Finlay's papers in his own articles and gave him credit for the discovery in his personal correspondence. In the words of General Leonard Wood, a physician and U.S. military governor of Cuba in 1900: "The confirmation of Finlay's doctrine is the greatest step forward made in medical science since Jenner's discovery of the vaccination for smallpox."
This discovery helped William C. Gorgas reduce the incidence and prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases in Panama during the American campaign, from 1903 onwards, to construct the Panama Canal. Prior to this, about 10% of the workforce had died each year from malaria and yellow fever.
In 1912, he posthumously received what would come to be known as the Walter Reed Medal in recognition of his work to combat yellow fever. A tropical medicine course is also named after him, Walter Reed Tropical Medicine Course. The National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland holds a collection of his papers regarding typhoid fever studies.Philip Showalter Hench, a Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine in 1950, maintained a long interest in Walter Reed and yellow fever. His collection of thousands of items—documents, photographs, and artifacts—is at the University of Virginia in the Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection. More than 7,500 of these items, including several hundred letters written by Reed himself, are accessible online at the web exhibit devoted to this Collection.
In addition to that medal, course, and a stamp issued in his honor (shown), locations and institutions named after the medical pioneer include:
John Miltern portrayed Reed in the 1934 Broadway play, Yellow Jack, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Sidney Howard, in collaboration with Paul de Kuif . : A History, in 1934. Lewis Stone took the part in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1938 film adaptation of the play, Yellow Jack . The play and screenplay were adapted for television in episodes (both titled "Yellow Jack") of Celanese Theatre (1952) and of Producers' Showcase (1955). In the latter, Reed was portrayed by Broderick Crawford.Harcourt Brace and Co. published the play in book form, titled Yellow Jack
Jeffrey Hunter played Reed in a 1962 episode of the anthology show Death Valley Days, titled "Suzie". In 2006, PBS's American Experience television series broadcast, "The Great Fever", a program exploring Reed's yellow fever campaign. The PBS website contains a great deal of additional information, including links to primary sources.
Reed's name is featured on the frieze of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Twenty-three names of public health and tropical medicine pioneers were originally chosen to be displayed on the School building in Keppel Street when it was constructed in 1926.
Yellow fever is a viral disease of typically short duration. In most cases, symptoms include fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains particularly in the back, and headaches. Symptoms typically improve within five days. In about 15% of people, within a day of improving the fever comes back, abdominal pain occurs, and liver damage begins causing yellow skin. If this occurs, the risk of bleeding and kidney problems is increased.
Philip Showalter Hench was an American physician. Hench, along with his Mayo Clinic co-worker Edward Calvin Kendall and Swiss chemist Tadeus Reichstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1950 for the discovery of the hormone cortisone, and its application for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The Nobel Committee bestowed the award for the trio's "discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects."
Arbovirus is an informal name used to refer to any viruses that are transmitted by arthropod vectors. The word arbovirus is an acronym. The word tibovirus is sometimes used to more specifically describe viruses transmitted by ticks, a superorder within the arthropods. Arboviruses can affect both animals and plants. In humans, symptoms of arbovirus infection generally occur 3–15 days after exposure to the virus and last three or four days. The most common clinical features of infection are fever, headache, and malaise, but encephalitis and viral hemorrhagic fever may also occur.
Brigadier General George Miller Sternberg was a U.S. Army physician who is considered the first U.S. bacteriologist, having written Manual of Bacteriology (1892). After he survived typhoid and yellow fever, Sternberg documented the cause of malaria (1881), discovered the cause of lobar pneumonia (1881), and confirmed the roles of the bacilli of tuberculosis and typhoid fever (1886).
Carlos Juan Finlay was a Spanish and Cuban epidemiologist recognized as a pioneer in the research of yellow fever, determining that it was transmitted through mosquitoes Aedes aegypti.
Peter Agre is an American physician, Nobel Laureate, and molecular biologist, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. In 2003, Agre and Roderick MacKinnon shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "discoveries concerning channels in cell membranes." Agre was recognized for his discovery of aquaporin water channels. Aquaporins are water-channel proteins that move water molecules through the cell membrane. In 2009, Agre was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and became active in science diplomacy.
William Crawford Gorgas KCMG was a United States Army physician and 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army (1914–1918). He is best known for his work in Florida, Havana and at the Panama Canal in abating the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry these diseases. At the time, his strategy was greeted with considerable skepticism and opposition to such hygiene measures. However, the measures he put into practice as the head of the Panama Canal Zone Sanitation Commission saved thousands of lives and contributed to the success of the Canal's construction.
Jesse William Lazear was an American physician.
Clara Louise Maass was an American nurse who died as a result of volunteering for medical experiments to study yellow fever.
Aristides Agramonte y Simoni was a Cuban American physician, pathologist and bacteriologist with expertise in tropical medicine. In 1898 George Miller Sternberg appointed him as an Acting Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Army and sent him to Cuba to study a yellow fever outbreak. He later served on the Yellow Fever Commission, a U.S. Army Commission led by Walter Reed which examined the transmission of yellow fever. In addition to this research, he also studied plague, dengue, trachoma, malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and more. After serving on the Yellow Fever Commission, he served as a professor at the University of Havana as well as many government positions.
Major James Carroll was a US Army physician.
The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) is the largest biomedical research facility administered by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The institute is centered at the Forest Glen Annex, part of the unincorporated Silver Spring urban area in Maryland just north of Washington, DC, but it is a subordinate unit of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), headquartered at nearby Fort Detrick, Maryland. At Forest Glen, the WRAIR has shared a laboratory and administrative facility — the Sen Daniel K. Inouye Building, also known as Building 503 — with the Naval Medical Research Center since 1999.
Yellow Jack is a 1938 film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based on the 1934 play Yellow Jack. Both were co-written by Sidney Howard and Paul de Kruif.
Leonard D. White, M.D. was a late 19th-century physician and one of the Health Officers in Massachusetts who was involved with the earliest study of mosquitoes and malaria and efforts for community prevention of malaria. He served as chairman of the Board of Health in Uxbridge.
National Doctors' Day is a day celebrated to recognize the contributions of physicians to individual lives and communities. The date may vary from nation to nation depending on the event of commemoration used to mark the day. In some nations the day is marked as a holiday. Although supposed to be celebrated by patients in and benefactors of the healthcare industry, it is usually celebrated by health care organizations. Staff may organize a lunch for doctors to present the physicians with tokens of recognition. Historically, a card or red carnation may be sent to physicians and their spouses, along with a flower being placed on the graves of deceased physicians.
Juan Guitéras y Gener, was a Cuban physician and pathologist specializing in yellow fever.
Walter Myers BSc, MA, MB BChir, MRCS, LRCP was a British physician, toxicologist and parasitologist who died of yellow fever aged 28 while studying the disease in Brazil.
Herbert Durham DSc (Cantab), MB, BC, FRCS, ARPS was a British physician and distinguished scientist.
Yellow Jack is a 1934 docudrama play produced by Guthrie McClintic that was later adapted into a 1938 Hollywood movie by the same name. Both were co-written by Sidney Howard and Paul de Kruif. The play is the work of Sidney Howard and is based on a chapter in Paul de Kruif's 1927 book Microbe Hunters.
Robert Ellis Shope was an American virologist, epidemiologist and public health expert, particularly known for his work on arthropod-borne viruses and emerging infectious diseases. He discovered more novel viruses than any person previously, including members of the Arenavirus, Hantavirus, Lyssavirus and Orbivirus genera of RNA viruses. He researched significant human diseases, including dengue, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers and Lyme disease. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of viruses, and curated a global reference collection of over 5,000 viral strains. He was the lead author of a groundbreaking report on the threat posed by emerging infectious diseases, and also advised on climate change and bioterrorism.