THE ICON: Dr. Walter Reed
THE LEGACY: It was an annual plague. Every summer, as warm weather set in, New Orleans braced for an outbreak of yellow fever. Those who could afford it got the heck out, fleeing to the Northshore or farther. Those who couldn’t, stayed. And they prayed. Nearly every year, hundreds of them would be killed anyway by the so-called “saffron scourge” — sometimes thousands. Then, in 1900, a team led by Army doctor Walter Reed confirmed a key discovery: It was the mosquitoes. The winged pests weren’t just annoying. They were deadly, spreading the virus that caused the disease. That breakthrough gave New Orleanians the information they needed to put the brakes on yellow fever — and save untold lives in the process.
THE ARTIST: Connie Kittok, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “Louisiana and New Orleans, this summer, did what, so far as I remember, has never been done in the case of a similar epidemic of yellow fever in the United States. They took hold of it after it had started and when it had got well under way, and they controlled and conquered it without waiting for the frost to come.” — President Theodore Roosevelt, during an October 1905 visit to New Orleans