William Crawford Gorgas - Encyclopedia

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Medical warning!
This article is from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Medical science has made many leaps forward since it has been written. This is not a site for medical advice, when you need information on a medical condition, consult a professional instead.

"WILLIAM CRAWFORD GORGAS (1854-1920), American army surgeon, was born at Mobile, Ala., Oct. 3 1854. His father was brigadier-general and chief of ordnance in the Confederate army during the Civil War. He was educated at the university of the South, Sewanee, Tenn. (A.B. 1875), and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, New York (M.D. 1879). He was an interne at Bellevue hospital from 1878 to 1880 and in the latter year entered the Medical Corps of the U.S. army. In 1885 he became captain. During the Spanish-American War he served as major (Medical Corps), being sent, after the Santiago expedition, to Havana where he assumed care of yellow-fever patients. From 1898 to 1902, as chief sanitary officer he was in charge of the sanitation measures carried out in Havana. The city was thoroughly cleaned and many experiments were conducted in connexion with the recent discovery that yellow fever was transmitted by the mosquito. Because of his success in eliminating yellow fever at Havana he was made assistant surgeon-general, U.S. army, with the rank of colonel, by a special Act of Congress in 1903. In 1904 he was sent as chief sanitary officer to Panama, where two of the main obstacles to success in building the Canal were yellow fever and malaria. Here again his methods were so efficient that by the close of 1906 he had eliminated yellow fever from the Canal region. Malaria also was eventually brought under control and the Canal Zone converted into a healthful spot. In 1907 he was appointed a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission by President Roosevelt, and the following year was U.S. delegate to the first Pan-American Medical Congress, held at Santiago, Chile. He was president of the American Medical Association 1908-9. In 1913 he was called to the Rand Gold Mines in South Africa to suggest means for combating the frequent epidemics of pneumonia (influenza). This he found was largely due to crowding the labourers together in barracks, and he recommended that they be placed with their families in separate abodes. In 1914 he was made surgeon-general, U.S. army, with the rank of brigadier-general. The same year he was awarded the degree of D.Sc. by the university of Oxford and received the Seaman medal from the American Museum of Safety and a gold medal from the American Medical Association. In 1916 he was made major-general, U.S. army, and in 1918 was retired. He then assumed the permanent directorship of the yellow-fever work of the International Health Board of the Rockefeller Foundation. He went to Central America to make a survey, and under his direction investigation of yellow fever was made at Guayaquil, Ecuador, and in Guatemala. In 1919 he accepted a contract with the Government of Peru to carry out a sanitary programme in that country. He received many marks of recognition at home and abroad. He was awarded the D.S.M. (U.S.), and made Commander of the Legion of Honour (France) and K.C.M.G. (Great Britain). He died in London July 4 1920 and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

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