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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/267

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WALTER REED.

usually remote and with small garrisons. The young medical officer, generally the only one at the station, was called upon by the settlers for miles around. Without help, and with only such instruments and medicines as could be hastily stuffed in his saddle-bag, he was summoned to attend a fractured thigh, a child choking with diphtheria, or, most trying of all, a complicated child-birth.

Such experience schools well in self-reliance, and in the formation of quick and accurate observation. For a man like Reed, already an earnest student, no better preparation could perhaps have been had. His earlier army service must have singularly tended to develop in him the very qualities most necessary to his final success. To the end of his life it was noticeable that even when he had long given up the practice of medicine for the work of the laboratory, he was, nevertheless, unexcelled at the bedside for rapid unerring diagnosis and sound judgment in treatment. So also were the series of experiments which robbed yellow fever of its terrors especially remarkable for simplicity, accuracy and completeness, or they never would have so quickly convinced the world of their truth. Too much reverence for accepted teachings, and too little experience in grappling with difficulties unassisted, and they might never have been conceived or carried out.

In 1890, he was assigned to duty in Baltimore and remained there over a year. Here he had the great advantage of working in the laboratories of Johns Hopkins University and the happiness of winning the close friendship of his distinguished teacher, Professor William H. Welch.

In 1893 Reed was promoted surgeon with the rank of major, and in the same year was detailed in Washington as curator of the Army Medical Museum and professor of bacteriology at the newly organized Army Medical School. Here he worked industriously at his specialty and wrote many valuable monographs, all characterized by accuracy and originality. His excellent judgment made him especially valuable in investigating the causes of epidemic diseases at military posts and in making sanitary inspections. He was, therefore, frequently selected for such work, which, with his duties as teacher and member of examining boards, occupied much of the time that he would otherwise have spent in his laboratory. Here, again, it seems that duties which must often have been irksome were specially fitting him for his culminating work.

During the Spanish-American war the camps of the volunteer troops in the United States were devastated by typhoid fever, and Major Reed was selected as the head of a board to study the causation and spread of the disease. This immense task occupied more than a year's time. With the utmost patience and accuracy the details of hundreds of individual cases were grouped and studied. The report of the commission, now in course of publication by the government, is a monumental work which must always serve as a basis for future study