Walter Reed

Walter Reed

Belroi, Gloucester County, Virginia, USA
Death 22 Nov 1902 (aged 51)
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 3, Lot 1864, Grid T/U-16.5
Memorial ID 857 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Medical Pioneer. He is best remembered for finding the source of Yellow Fever. Born and raised in Belroi, Virginia, he attended college at the University of Virginia, completing his medical degree in 1869 at the age of 18. He then enrolled at the New York University's Bellevue Hospital Medical College, where he obtained a second medical degree in 1870. While interning at various New York City hospitals, he served on the New York City Board of Health until 1875. The next year, he joined the United States Army's Medical Corps for its professional opportunities and for the financial security that it could provide him. For the next several years, he served as the medical officer at various Army posts in the western United States, until 1893, when he completed advance coursework in pathology and bacteriology at the John Hopkins University Hospital Pathology Laboratory. During this time period, medicine was experiencing a major revolution, coming out of its dark ages where diseases were blamed on miasmas, breathing swamp air, and other folklore, with the discovery and realization that bacteria and other germs were causing diseases. As these great advances revolutionized medical treatment, new understanding of how diseases are caused, transmitted, and cured resulted in a remarkable increase in patient survival. In 1893, Reed joined the Army Medical School in Washington DC, where he held the professorship of Bacteriology and Clinical Microscopy. He took his new job and the new thinking seriously, and began research into numerous diseases, including the dreaded Yellow Fever. With the success of the American Army during the short Spanish-American War of 1898, Yellow Fever soon spread among the Army troops in tropical Cuba, killing more soldiers than the Spanish had. In 1899, Reed traveled to Cuba to study the disease. Upon his return to the United States, Army Surgeon General George M. Sternberg appointed him head of a commission to study tropical diseases, including Yellow Fever. Returning to Cuba, Reed proved that mosquitoes were transmitting the disease, and he had the Army embark on a strong program to eradicate mosquito breeding areas, which in turn, cut the Yellow Fever death rate in Cuba dramatically. Returning from Cuba in 1901, Reed published his findings and made several speeches on his research, for which he received an honorary Doctoral degree from Harvard University. In 1902, Reed's appendix suddenly ruptured, and he died on the operating table on November 23, from the resulting peritonitis. Reed's groundbreaking leadership in Yellow Fever research was significant just a couple of years later when the United States began the building of the Panama Canal; Yellow Fever deaths had stopped the French from building a canal in Panama just twenty years earlier, and armed with the information from Reed's research, Army Medical Corps personnel were able to reduce the Yellow Fever threat in Panama to a manageable level. Following his death, in 1909, the Army named its premier medical research center in Washington DC for him. In addition, the medical community, starting in 1929, now awards the Walter Reed Medal to those physicians who make advances in medical research.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

Family Members

Siblings Half Siblings



How famous was Walter Reed?

Current rating:

103 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 857
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Walter Reed (13 Sep 1851–22 Nov 1902), Find a Grave Memorial no. 857, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .