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Major Walter Reed, M.D., U.S. Army (September 13, 1851 – November 22, 1902), was a U.S. Army physician who in 1901 led the team that confirmed the theory of the Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species, rather than by direct contact.
This insight gave impetus to the new fields of epidemiology and biomedicine, and most immediately allowed the resumption and completion of work on the Panama Canal (1904–1914) by the United States.
Reed followed work started by Carlos Finlay and directed by George Miller Sternberg, who has been called the "first U.S. bacteriologist".
Early and family life
Walter Reed was born in Belroi, Virginia, to Lemuel Sutton Reed (a traveling Methodist minister) and his first wife, Pharaba White, the fifth child born to the couple. During his youth, the family resided at Murfreesboro, North Carolina with his mother's family during his father's preaching tours. Two of his elder brothers later achieved distinction: J.C. became a minister in Virginia like their father, and Christopher a judge in Wichita, Kansas and later St. Louis, Missouri. Their childhood home is included in the Murfreesboro Historic District.
After the American Civil War in December 1866, Rev. Reed remarried, to Mrs. Mary C. Byrd Kyle of Harrisonburg, Virginia, with whom he had a daughter. Young Walter enrolled at the University of Virginia. After two years, Reed completed the M.D. degree in 1869, two months before he turned 18. He was the youngest-ever recipient of an M.D. from the university.
Reed then enrolled at the New York University's Bellevue Hospital Medical College in Manhattan, New York, where he obtained a second M.D. in 1870, as his brother Christopher attempted to set up a legal practice. After interning at several New York City hospitals, Walter Reed worked for the New York Board of Health until 1875.
He married Emily Blackwell Lawrence (1856–1950) of North Carolina on April 26, 1876 and took her West with him. Later, Emily gave birth to a son, Walter Lawrence Reed (1877–1956) and a daughter, Emily Lawrence Reed (1883–1964). While posted at frontier camps, the couple also adopted a Native American girl named Susie.