Carlos Juan Finlay

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Finlay, Carlos Juan


(Carlos Juan Finlay y Barrés). Born Dec. 3, 1833, in Puerto Principe, now Camagüey; died Aug. 20, 1915, in Havana. Cuban physician and health services organizer. Member of the Academy of Medical and Natural Sciences in Havana.

Finlay studied in France and Germany. In 1855 he graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia (USA) and that same year began working in Cuba. He was the first director of the public health service of Cuba (1902–09) and was one of the authors of Cuba’s first health code.

Finlay’s primary work was in research on yellow fever. In 1881 he proved that the carrier of the disease was a mosquito, Aëdes aegypti, and between 1893 and 1898 developed methods for combating the disease, including the protection of patients from mosquito bites by physical means, the elimination of the carriers’ breeding grounds, quarantine and evacuation of patients, a fumigation procedure, and improvement in hospital services. He also conducted research on other diseases, such as trichinosis, tuberculosis, malaria, and leprosy, and worked on questions of occupational health and sanitary statistics. In 1928 the Order of Finlay, awarded for outstanding work in the field of public health, was established in Cuba. The Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Historical Museum of Medical Science of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba have been named for Finlay; in 1961 his birthday was designated as the Day of Latin American Medicine by the government of Cuba.


Obras completas, vols. 1–5. Havana, 1965–71.


Bogoiavlenskii, N. A., and lu. P. Lisitsyn. O russko-kubinskikh meditsinskikh sviaziakh. Moscow, 1963.
Rodriguez Esposito, C. Finlay por cuarta vez ante el Congreso internacional de historia de la medicina. Havana, 1971.


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In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical giant Smithkline Beecham was issued an OFAC license for testing, conducting clinical trials, and marketing a Meningitis B vaccine developed by Cuba's Carlos Finlay Institute.
At one of its first post-war assemblies, in November 1898, the recently repatriated academician Carlos Finlay reformulated his old proposition that yellow fever was transmitted by the Culex mosquito.
Carlos Finlay was not, however, welcome at the Instituto--at least not at the outset.
Sitting in his presidential chair at the Academy, surrounded by the catastrophe of war and the ruins of his scientific and political ambitions, knowing that the US occupation authorities were on the doorstep, he listened as Carlos Finlay (just returned from service as a doctor in the US Army, no less, and a stint treating yellow fever cases in Santiago) expounded for the umpteenth time his theory of the transmission of yellow fever by the Culex mosquito.
Not only did the laboratory lose its government subsidy, but for reasons that are still not clear but almost certainly had to do with Santos Fernandez having been a Hispanophile and an Autonomist to the end, he was never favoured by the US occupation government or the Cuban physicians whose stature and political fortune rose through their association with the US authorities (Diego Tamayo and Carlos Finlay among them), in some cases through a long residency in the United States (for example, John/Juan Guiteras and Aristides Agramonte).
Heroes in unravelling the mysteries of the cause of yellow fever include Dr Carlos Finlay (1833-1915)--a Cuban doctor of French and Scottish descent who was the first, in 1881, to theorise that a mosquito was a carrier of the organism causing yellow fever.
Carlos Finlay Elementary School, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami, FL
The Cuban Instituto Carlos Finlay developed the vaccine after a meningitis outbreak in Cuba in the 1980s.
The vaccine was developed by the Carlos Finlay Institute in Havana.
Walter Reed had made this possible in 1900 by confirming the theory of a Cuban doctor, Carlos Finlay, that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquito bites.