Walter Reed

There is a large army hospital in Washington, D.C. named for a famous general of the Army Medical Corps. Do you know the name of this general? Walter Reed. This hospital is in the news from time to time as Presidents a nd other prominent men of our nation's capital are treated there. Presidents Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Nixon have been patients there.
Now who was this man Walter Reed? Well his statue does not stand in The Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C., but untold millions of people owe Walter Reed a debt of gratitude for his successful medical experiments. Walter Reed was born in Belroi, Virginia, in l85l. He graduated from the University of Virginia and the Bellevue Medical Hospital Medical School in New York City. For several years, he served on the Boards of Health in New York and Brooklyn. At the age of 24, he entered the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army with the rank of First Lieutenant. He was assigned to a post at Baltimore as an attending surgeon and an examiner of army recruits. Reed studied at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and there he was attached to the laboratory where he was trained in the origin, nature, causes and development of disease. Young Walter Reed learned his lessons well as his future accomplishments in the Medical Service of the Army show. Three years later Walter Reed was transferred to Washington, D.C., and named Professor of Bacteriology at the newly established Army Medical School.
Around the turn of the century, the most dreadful disease to afflict the warm countries to the south including the southern part of the United States was yellow fever. It was not unusual for this dread disease to wipe out whole communities. One town Port Saint Joe in northwest Florida was reduced by this disease in one summer from a thriving seaport to a ghost town by the death of over 3/4ths of its population. This town never fully recovered from the effects of the yellow peril.
In Cuba, Mexico, and Central America, yellow fever flourished all the year round. No one knew how it spread. The general idea was that it was spread by contagion, that is, by a well person touching a sick person or a sick person's clothes. In l8 98, two years before the turn of the century, the Spanish-American War began and although it only lasted less than one year the cost of this short war was terrific. Listen carefully to these figures. There were 274,000 officers and men who served in the Army during the war. 5462 died in the various theaters of war, but only 379 were killed in battle. The other 5080 died from disease and other causes, but the greatest number died of yellow fever.
The Army decided to do something about this cri tical situation, and as soon as the war was over, Walter Reed was named head of a yellow fever commission. This commission carried out experiments in Cuba with soldiers and other volunteers which finally proved that yellow fever was spread by the "Aedes Aegypti" mosquito. The commission's findings made it possible to eliminate this dread disease in the U. S. and Cuba and finally throughout the world.
The final experiment was begun on December 21, l900. It consisted of a large room with 3 beds. The room was divided with screened wire with one bed on one side of the screen and two beds on the other. Three volunteers entered the room-one man a soldier from Ohio named Moran took the room with the single bed and into this room was placed about a dozen mosquitoes. No mosquitoes were placed in the double room. Three days later on Christmas morning Moran was stricken with yellow fever. The other two men, protected by the screen did not come down with the disease. This final test brought the comm ission's task to a close and in writing to his wife, Walter Reed gave some of his own feelings and sentiments regarding the benefits and blessings his successful experiments brought to the human race. Here are some revealing remarks from his letter:
"Columbia Barracks, Quemados, Cuba. ll:50 P.M. Dec. 3l, l900. Only ten minutes of the old century remain. Here have I been sitting reading that wonderful book, "La Roche on Yellow Fever" written in l853. Forty-seven years later it has been permitted to me and my assistants to lift the impenetrable veil that has surrounded the cause of this dreadful pest of humanity and to put it on a rational and scientific basis. I thank God that this has been accomplished during the latter days of the old century. May its cure be wrought out in the early days of the new century. The prayer that has been mine for 20 years, that I might be permitted in some way or at some time to do something to alleviate human suffering has been granted-a thousand happ y new years. Hark, there go the 24 buglers in concert, all sounding taps for the old year. A new century begins."
The great Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is a fitting memorial to this great American.

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