By Michael Baadke
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., is named for a United States Army doctor who led the research breakthrough in combating yellow fever at the dawn of the 20th century.
Walter Reed was born Sept. 13, 1851, in Belroi, Va., the youngest of five children. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a medical degree at age 17, and earned a second degree at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York before entering the Army Medical Corps in 1875. Reed held various posts during his military career, including as an instructor in bacteriology at the Army Medical School in Washington, D.C.
He was involved in successful military efforts to fight the spread of typhoid fever and yellow fever. While at work in Cuba in 1900, he found that yellow fever was transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, leading to victory in stemming the yellow fever mortality rates. Reed credited the earlier work of Cuban epidemiologist Carlos Finlay for his own achievements.
Reed died in 1902 following emergency appendix surgery. He is honored on a 5¢ ultramarine stamp issued in 1940 in the American Scientists set of the Famous Americans series (Scott 877).