University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

“Ready to Do My Bit”: Henry Hanson and Yellow Fever

Now as you know I am getting ready for the African venture to “do my bit” in the last fight, as we all hope, against yellow fever. (Letter from Dr. Henry Hanson to Dr. Henry Rose Carter, August 7, 1925)[1]

In 2004, Historical Collections & Services at the University of Virginia Claude Moore Health Sciences Library concluded the second phase of an immense project digitizing the Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection, which resulted in over 94,000 images of historic documents being made available online.  More than 2,000 people are listed in its Who’s Who section. Some of these individuals’ stories are told in full as the “key players” through extensive letters, diaries, published materials, and newspapers; other individuals are only briefly, tangentially mentioned, flitting through the documents with the speed of a tiny mosquito.  Dr. Henry Hanson’s listing simply states, “Hanson, Henry | Physician; involved with public health work in Ecuador, Peru (1921).”

Of course, as is often the case with history, there is more to the story. Because of the generous donation of Dr. Hanson’s diary concerning his experiences as a fever fighter in West Africa by his granddaughter, Jane H. Monroe, the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library is able to tell more of his story. It is placed within the context of the battle against yellow fever which has continued for more than a century after Walter Reed as head of the United States Army Yellow Fever Commission wrote his wife about “lifting the impenetrable veil that has surrounded the causation of this most dreadful pest of humanity.”[2]

A special thanks to Jane H. Monroe for her generosity and to all medical professionals, past, present and future, who sacrifice their health and well-being to save lives through their work and research.

 Next: Henry Hanson: A Biographical Essay ford_sedan_smallest