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July 23, 1982

Walter Reed: A Biography

Author Affiliations

Morris Fishbein Center University of Chicago Chicago


by William B. Bean, 190 pp, with illus, $12.95, Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia, 1982.

JAMA. 1982;248(4):476. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330040064039

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The brilliant researches of Walter Reed proved that the mosquito Aedes aegypti transmitted yellow fever. This work, carried out with several collaborators, was a landmark in epidemiology and public health and certainly the greatest American medical contribution to that time. Yet, while the work is well known, the man remained a rather shadowy figure. Over many years, Dr Bean has collected material on Reed for this biography. He interviewed surviving members of the family and anyone who knew him or was in any way involved with his work. He collected letters, pored over archival material, ransacked newspaper files, and extended his researches to include friends and collaborators of Reed.

In his epilogue, Bean says that he "tried to bring Walter Reed to life not simply as a 'medical hero' but as a man as well." In this he has succeeded. Reed emerges as a definitely three-dimensional figure, from youth to