Philadelphia Under Siege: The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

20,000 people, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and much of the federal government fled the city to escape the fever. By Samuel A. Gum The summer was the hottest in years. The humidity was hardly bearable. The muddy swamps of Philadelphia spawned round after round of mosquitoes which relentlessly assaulted their human blood meals. An[…]

Dr. Benjamin Rush: Medical Quackery in the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

The contradiction in his character is particularly well illustrated by his behavior during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793. By Dr. Robert L. NorthFormer Professor of Internal MedicineThe University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Introduction Benjamin Rush, MD (1745–1813), was not only the most well known physician in 18th-century America, he was[…]

Politics of Yellow Fever in Alexander Hamilton’s America

Yellow fever ravaged Philadelphia in 1793. “A new order of things is rising in medicine, as well as in government.” Dr. Benjamin Rush The deadly disease touched nearly everyone in the city: young and old, white and African American, wealthy and poor, religious and secular. No one really knew what caused the disease or how[…]

A History of the Yellow Fever Vaccine

The close of the 19th century also witnessed dramatic discoveries in the new science of bacteriology that would transform medicine forever. Introduction After failed attempts at producing bacteria-based vaccines, the discovery of a viral agent causing yellow fever and its isolation in monkeys opened new avenues of research. Subsequent advances were the attenuation of the[…]

Thomas Jefferson, Yellow Fever, and Land Planning for Public Health

Jefferson, ever sanguine, was merely trying to make the best of a wretched scenario. A yellow-fever epidemic in 1793 hit Philadelphia, a city then of some 50,000 persons. Forty percent of the people fled Philadelphia. That noted, still some 10 percent of the citizens, some 5,000 persons, perished during the epidemic, which ceased when a[…]