Walter Reed (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Reed served as the head of the commission that designed and conducted the experiments which revealed beyond a doubt that yellow fever was transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, thus making control of this terrible disease possible.
Walter Reed was born September 13, 1851, in the small town of Belroi, Virginia, near Gloucester. He was the youngest of five children. His mother, Pharaba White, was the first wife of his father, Lemuel Sutton Reed, a Methodist minister. From the very first, it seemed as if Reed were destined to live a gypsylike existence. As an adult, he would reside in a nearly endless series of army camps; as a child, his family moved frequently as his father was sent to parish after parish in the regions of southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina. In 1865, however, the Reeds achieved some stability with a move to Charlottesville, Virginia, and Walter was able to attend school with some regularity. In 1866, he entered the University of Virginia, receiving the M.D. degree in 1869.
Feeling the need for more clinical experience, Reed next enrolled in the medical school of Bellevue Hospital in New York City, where, at the age of nineteen, he completed study for his second M.D. degree. A year’s internship followed in New York’s Infant’s Hospital, after which he became a physician in two other hospitals in the New York area while also serving as a...
(The entire section is 2211 words.)
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Reed, Walter (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
A native of Virginia, Walter Reed (1851902) received his medical education at Bellevue Medical School in New York, worked as a district physician in Brooklyn, and then joined the U.S. Army, providing basic medical services in many parts of the frontier West. Attracted by the new science of bacteriology, he was sent by the army to study with William Henry Welch at Johns Hopkins University, and was later appointed professor of bacteriology in the Army Medical School in Washington, DC in 1893. He chaired the U.S. Army typhoid fever commission of 1899, in which he, Victor C. Vaughan, and Edward O. Shakespeare established the importance of the asymptomatic typhoid carrier.
While working on this commission, he was assigned to investigate the high mortality from yellow fever in the U.S. military forces then occupying Havana in the wake of the Spanish-American War. His research there first established that, contrary to the then official position of the Surgeon General's Office, yellow fever was not caused by a gram-negative rod, the Sanarelli bacillus. Following this research, he and his three colleagues on the Yellow Fever Commission, Aristides Agramonte, James Carroll, and Jesse Lazear, undertook to test, in experiments with human volunteers, Carlos Finlay's hypothesis that yellow fever could be transmitted by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti (then known as Stegomyia fasciata or Culex fasciatus) mosquito. A key feature of Reed's experiments was the long intervalbout twelve to eighteen daysetween the infecting of mosquitoes via their feeding on yellow fever patients and the exposure of human volunteers to the bites of the infected mosquitoes. Reed had been impressed by the observation of U.S. Army surgeon Henry Rose Carter that yellow fever epidemics were characterized by a two-to three-week interval between the first case and the next set of cases. Reed correctly surmised that this represented the period of incubation of the infective agent in the mosquito.
Reed's procedure successfully transmitted yellow fever to several volunteers, confirmed that Aedes Aegypti was the essential vector of the disease, and was followed immediately by a mosquito eradication program led by Major William Gorgas (1854920) that virtually eradicated yellow fever in Havana for the first time in recorded history. Gorgas (who attained the rank of Major General during World War I), also led the mosquito eradication program that permitted construction of the Panama Canal. Happily, all of Reed's volunteers recovered from their experimental yellow fever infections, but Jesse Lazear died after being bitten by an infected mosquito that he allowed to feed on his arm.
(SEE ALSO: Communicable Disease Control; Finlay, Carlos; Vector-Borne Diseases; Yellow Fever)
Kelly, H. A. (1907). Walter Reed and Yellow Fever. New York: McLure, Phillips.