Doctor William Gorgas


This short film consists of views of Dr. William Crawford Gorgas (1854−1920), chief sanitation officer (1904−13) to the Isthmian Canal Commission in Panama. Gorgas is shown standing in front of a building at an undetermined location. The remainder of film shows Gorgas and an unidentified man riding on a Panama Railroad train. The two men are silhouetted against passing scenery of the Canal Zone as Gorgas indicates to the other man points of interest. The train passes a body of water that is probably a part of the canal; countryside; and buildings, probably on Front Street, Colón, including a YMCA club. There is a final scene of people walking across tracks after the train passes. A native of Alabama, Gorgas received his medical degree from Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York in 1879 and an appointment to the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1880. He served with U.S. troops in Havana following the Spanish-American War, and worked with the team of doctors and researchers led by Major Walter Reed that discovered that the deadly disease of yellow fever was spread by biting mosquitoes. Gorgas later was selected to be the sanitary expert on the project to build the Panama Canal, and he is credited with instituting sanitary and other measures that markedly lowered the death rate from yellow fever during the construction of the canal.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

United States

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Physical Description

1 reel (18 feet) : silent, black and whit ; 16 millimeters. Duration: 22 seconds at 20 frames per second


  1. Anne-Marie E. Nakhla, "Gorgas, William Crawford," in American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press for the American Council of Learned Societies, 1999).

Last updated: April 3, 2015