Reed, Walter (1851–1902)

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Reed, Walter (1851–1902)

Walter Reed (b. 13 September 1851; d. 23 November 1902), an American military physician. After studying medicine at the University of Virginia and the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City, Reed entered the U.S. Army in 1875. In 1893 he was named curator of the Army Medical Museum and professor of bacteriology at the Army Medical School in Washington, D.C. During the Spanish-American War, Reed directed a study on the origin and spread of typhoid fever that proved mosquitos were the most important carriers of the infection and that dust and uncleanliness helped spread the disease. In 1900, Reed led a commission to investigate a yellow fever epidemic among U.S. Army troops in Cuba. Applying the theories of Cuban physician Carlos Juan Finlay, Reed conducted a series of daring experiments that included the deliberate infection of volunteers to verify that the mosquito transmitted yellow fever. His discovery led to the extermination of mosquito-breeding sites in Cuba and subsequently in Panama, an important step that paved the way for the construction of the Panama Canal. Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is named for him.

See alsoDiseases; Finlay, Carlos Juan; Medicine: The Modern Era; Panama Canal.


L. O. Howard, The Yellow Fever Mosquito (1913).

James H. Hitchman, Leonard Wood and Cuban Independence, 1898–1902 (1971).

William B. Bean, Walter Reed: A Biography (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Espinosa, Mariola. "Epidemic Invasions: Yellow Fever, Public Health, and the Limits of Cuban Independence, 1878 through the Early Republic." Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2003.

Espinosa, Mariola. "The Threat from Havana: Southern Public Health, Yellow Fever, and the U.S. Intervention in the Cuban Struggle for Independence." Journal of Southern History 72:3 (August 2006): 541-568.

Pierce, John R., and Jim Writer. Yellow Jack: How Yellow Fever Ravaged America and Walter Reed Discovered Its Deadly Secrets. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley, 2005.

                                  Thomas M. Leonard