Parasitology, Harold W. Manter Laboratory of


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Date of this Version



Journal of Parasitology (September 1914) 1(1): 37-39.


Public domain material.



The danger in using isolated sentences from an article as a basis for interpreting the author's theories, is generally recognized, but sometimes the most careful workers fall into the trap. Once the mistaken interpretation is published, it may be copied over and over again until it rises to the dignity of a dogma.

A striking illustration is afforded by the practical unanimity with which writers on the subject of insects and disease credit Dr. Josiah Nott with being the earliest to formulate definitely the theory of mosquito transmission of yellow fever.

Nuttall, in his classic monograph On the Role of Insects, Arachnids and Myriapods as Carriers in the Spread of Bacterial and Parasitic Diseases (1899), states: "In 1848, Nott of New Orleans published an essay on yellow fever, in which he refers to malaria as if the mosquito theory had already been advanced, and he gives grounds for his belief that the mosquito also gives rise to yellow fever."

The original publication was not accessible to Dr. Nuttall, who was forced to depend on an abstract furnished by Dr. Isadore Dyer of New Orleans. Following Nuttall, almost every writer on the historical aspect of the theory of insect transmission of disease, especially yellow fever, refers to Nott's theory, and some who have evidently seen and hurriedly read the original, quote specific statements which seem to indicate clearly the intent of the argument.

Dr. Nott's scholarly paper on "The Cause of Yellow Fever" was published in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, volume iv, in March 1848. A cursory reading of it, in the light of present-day knowledge, affords ample indication that he believed in the insect transmission not only of yellow fever, but also of malaria and various other diseases.