Gorgas, William Crawford

Gorgas, William Crawford,

1854–1920, American disease and sanitation expert, surgeon general of the United States, b. Mobile, Ala., grad. Bellevue Hospital Medical College, 1879. He served with the U.S. army medical corps after 1880. Stricken with yellow fever while stationed at Fort Brown, Tex., Gorgas soon recovered and thereafter remained immune to the disease. In 1898 he was sent to Cuba as sanitation director. Applying the findings of Carlos J. Finlay and Walter Reed, Gorgas after a short time permanently rid Havana of yellow fever. He then went (1904) to the Isthmus of Panama, where amid administrative difficulties he succeeded in cleansing the Panama Canal Zone of yellow fever by eliminating the breeding places of mosquitoes and segregating stricken patients. He improved health conditions in the cities of Colón and Panama while insuring the completion of the Panama Canal. These events he discussed in his book, Sanitation in Panama (1915). He later made several trips to clear up disease-infested places throughout the world, and he made notable progress in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a city long scourged with yellow fever. He served (1914–19) as surgeon general of the United States and was attached, after 1916, to the International Health Board.
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Gorgas, William Crawford

(1854–1920) soldier, sanitary physician; born near Mobile, Ala. (son of Josiah Gorgas). Trained as a doctor, he joined the Army Medical Corps (1880). Having survived an attack of yellow fever, he was assigned to the yellow fever camp in Cuba during the Spanish-American War (1898); appointed chief sanitary officer of Havana, he rid that city and much of the island of the mosquitoes and fever; he then went on to do the same for the Panama Canal Zone (1904–10), despite opposition from many in authority. He was the army's surgeon general during World War I (1914–18). He died in England while en route to Africa to investigate yellow fever there.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.