The Mosquito Crusades: A History of the American Anti-Mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day

The Mosquito Crusades: A History of the American Anti-Mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day

The Mosquito Crusades: A History of the American Anti-Mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day

The Mosquito Crusades: A History of the American Anti-Mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day

Synopsis

Among the struggles of the twentieth century, the one between humans and mosquitoes may have been the most vexing, as demonstrated by the long battle to control these bloodsucking pests. As vectors of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and dengue fever, mosquitoes forced open a new chapter in the history of medical entomology. Based on extensive use of primary sources, The Mosquito Crusades traces this saga and the parallel efforts of civic groups in New Jersey's Meadowlands and along San Francisco Bay's east side to manage the dangerous mosquito population.

Providing readers with a fascinating exploration of the relationship between science, technology, and public policy, Gordon Patterson's narrative begins in New Jersey with John B. Smith's effort to develop a comprehensive plan and solution for mosquito control, one that would serve as a national model. From the Reed Commission's 1900 yellow fever experiment to the first Earth Day seventy years later, Patterson provides an eye-opening account of the crusade to curtail the deadly mosquito population.

Excerpt

AT 1:00 P.M. EST on November 10, 1951, Leslie Denning, mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, phoned Frank Osborn, the mayor of Alameda, California. In Englewood, nearly one hundred reporters had crowded into the mayor’s office to watch Denning make the nation’s first long-distance, direct-dial phone call. Three thousand miles to the west in Alameda, Osborn waited expectantly. When the phone rang, Osborn answered declaring, “This is a great thing for both our cities. New Jersey to Alameda in eighteen seconds. The world shrinks so that soon there won’t be enough room for the people.” During the next few minutes smiling members of both the Englewood and Alameda chambers of commerce listened as the mayors extolled their hometowns’ virtues and traded quips over the quality of life on the east and west coasts. At the phone call’s conclusion Osborn fired a parting tease, “Is it true that people in New Jersey ride mosquitoes the same as we ride horses out here?”

None of the newspaper accounts of the historic phone call included Denning’s response. Months later Mrs. Harvey Bein, chairperson of the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs committee on mosquito control, sought to set the record straight. “The deadly effect of [the mosquito’s] bite on the health and welfare of the people,” Mrs. Bein told the participants at the thirty-ninth annual meeting of the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association, “does not provoke one who knows of it to puns and laughter. You will be interested to know that while the humor has not been entirely dissipated, your good work is being spread to the other side of the continent.” Denning had not allowed Osborn’s taunt, Mrs. Bein reported, to pass unchallenged. “I haven’t . . .

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