Ignored For Twenty Years

Ignored For Twenty Years

Written on 05/29/2022

Carlos Juan Finlay, a Cuban-American epidemiologist who discovered that yellow fever is transmitted from infected to healthy humans by a mosquito. Although he published experimental evidence of this discovery in 1886, his ideas were ignored for 20 years.

In 1900 the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Board was headed by the physician Walter Reed, arrived in Cuba, and Finlay attempted to persuade Reed of his mosquito-vector theory. Although skeptical, Reed decided to investigate the idea, refining Finlay’s experimental procedures in the process. Finlay’s proof that mosquitoes do indeed transmit yellow fever led to the eradication of the disease in Cuba and Panama followed. Finlay was appointed chief sanitation officer of Cuba (1902–09), and after his death, the Finlay Institute for Investigations in Tropical Medicine was created in his honor by the Cuban government.


"William Gorgas, the Surgeon-General of the US Army told the 43rd Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association that “No country owes a greater debt of gratitude to Doctor Finlay than does the United States.”

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