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Special Collections & University Archives: William C. Gorgas

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William C. Gorgas: Summary & Background

William C. Gorgas Research Guide


This research guide provides information about Dr. William C. Gorgas and links to primary and secondary sources. External resources are also included to facilitate access for new researchers.


Dr. William Crawford Gorgas was born October 3, 1854 in Toulminville, AL. He served in the US Army (1880–1918) as a physician and the 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army (1914–1918). Dr. Gorgas was assigned to Fort Brown in 1882 at the height of a yellow fever (also known as "yellow jack") epidemic, in Brownsville and Matamoros. While stationed at Fort Brown and attending to patients and burials, Dr. Gorgas contracted the disease, which he suspected was the result of a mosquito-borne illness made worse by poor sanitation conditions. Gorgas Hall on the TSC campus is named for him.

Dr. Gorgas put his theories to the test against outbreaks of yellow fever and malaria in Florida, Cuba, and at the Panama Canal. Dr. Gorgas implemented the draining of nearby ponds and swamps, using mosquito netting, fumigating against insects, and quarantining infected patients. His work in tropical medicine saved countless lives from deadly disease. Dr. Gorgas was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Victory Medal, and Public Welfare Medal. He was also awarded Honorary Knight Commander of Michael and George by England's King George V.

Source: Siler, J. F. (1922). Major-General William Crawford Gorgas. The American Journal of Tropical Medicines1-2(2), 161-171. 

For video images of Dr. Gorgas documenting his work to eradicate yellow fever view The story of the Panama Canal (below) and go to minute 07:22.

Archival and Digital Resources

External Resources

William Crawford Gorgas Papers. University of Alabama Special Collections & Archives.

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