What does Theodore Roosevelt have to do with the Museum’s giant mosquito model?
A section of the mural in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, which depicts the creation of the Panama Canal, offers a clue.
In 1897, medical researchers had pinpointed the Anophelese mosquito as the transmitter of malaria, and by 1900, determined that another mosquito, Aedes aegypti, transmitted yellow fever. The findings were disputed by authorities who continued to believe that poor sanitary conditions were the culprit. The conflict nearly derailed the building of the Panama Canal where yellow fever was decimating the laborers.
Colonel William Gorgas, an army doctor who had eliminated the disease in Cuba by destroying the breeding places of mosquitoes, was sent to Panama in 1904 where he ran into opposition from local authorities who eventually called for his removal.
Drawing on scientific research, then-President Theodore Roosevelt embraced the controversial mosquito theory and made a decision that saved thousands of lives, declaring, “By George, I’ll back up Gorgas and we’ll see it through.”
In 15 months, Panama was clear of yellow fever. Construction proceeded and the canal was completed in 1914
Read the full story here.