William Crawford GorgasKCMG (October 3, 1854 – July 3, 1920) was a United States Army physician and 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army (1914–1918). He is best known for his work in Florida, Havana and at the Panama Canal in abating the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry these diseases. At the time, his strategy was greeted with considerable skepticism and opposition to such hygiene measures. However, the measures he put into practice as the head of the Panama Canal Zone Sanitation Commission saved thousands of lives and contributed to the success of the Canal's construction.
In 1898, after the end of the Spanish–American War, Gorgas was appointed Chief Sanitary Officer in Havana, where he worked to eradicate yellow fever and malaria. Gorgas capitalized on the momentous work of another Army doctor, Major Walter Reed, who had built much of his work on the insights of Cuban doctor, Carlos Finlay, to prove the mosquito transmission of yellow fever. He won international fame battling the illness, which was then the scourge of tropical and sub-tropical climates. He worked in Florida, later in Havana, Cuba and finally, in 1904, at the site of the construction of the Panama Canal.
As chief sanitary officer on the canal project, Gorgas implemented far-reaching sanitary programs, including the draining of ponds and swamps, fumigation, use of mosquito netting, and construction of public water systems. These measures were instrumental in permitting the construction of the Panama Canal, as they significantly prevented illness due to yellow fever and malaria (which had also been shown to be transmitted by mosquitoes in 1898) among the thousands of workers involved in the building project.
William C. Gorgas' name as it is featured on the LSHTM Frieze
Gorgas' name features on the Frieze of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Twenty-three names of public health and tropical medicine pioneers were chosen to feature on the School building in Keppel Street when it was constructed in 1926.
Gorgas Hospital was a U.S. Army hospital in Panama, previously known as Ancon Hospital and named for Dr. Gorgas in 1928. Now held and operated by Panama, it is home to the Instituto Oncologico Nacional, Panama's Ministry of Health and its Supreme Court.
The Alabama Power Company renamed its Warrior Reserve Steam Plant on the Black Warrior River near Parrish in honor of Gorgas in the 1920s. Gorgas had testified on behalf of the utility during the previous decade in lawsuits over mosquito-borne illnesses in the vicinity of its Lay Dam hydroelectric reservoir. The coal-fired steam plant was closed in April 2019.
^"Famous Surgeon is Dead". Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-11-13. Maj. Gen. William C. Gorgas, former Surgeon-General of the United States Army, died at an early hour this morning. Gen. Gorgas's death was very peaceful. He was unconscious most of the time for the last few day
Endorsements, Resolutions and other Data in Behalf of the Nomination of Dr. William Crawford Gorgas for Election to the New York Hall of Fame for Great Americans, 2 vols., Birmingham: Gorgas Hall of Fame Committee, 1950.