Posted by: The Amoeba | May 17, 2009

You Can Look It Up

She: What’re you doing?

He: Research.

She: Business or pleasure?

He: Well, um, it’s like this.

I was writing a report on an organism that we have in our collection. The records say that the organism was collected in “St. Joeseph Bay”, Florida. I didn’t believe that there was any such place as “St. Joeseph Bay”.

So I looked it up.

And I read about a place called “St. Joseph’s Bay”, which was named after a Florida ghost town. It was a boomtown, until a yellow fever epidemic wiped it out.

Yellow fever in America? I didn’t know we had yellow fever in America.

So I looked it up.

And I read all about yellow fever epidemics in these United States. Including a big one in Philadelphia in 1793 that chased President George Washington and the rest of the US Federal government out of town, and killed the first husband of the woman who later became President James Madison’s wife. And a whole bunch of others, that continued right up until the time that Carlos Finlay of Cuba figured out how to control the disease.

Carlos Finlay? Who the howpeculiar is Carlos Finlay? And I thought that discovery was made by an American, Walter Reed.

So I looked it up.

And I read that Carlos Finlay did indeed figure out that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes, and he did it twenty years before Reed did. In fact, as Reed himself reported, repeatedly, all he really did was test and confirm Finlay’s findings. Which the rest of the world had ignored. But then, I suppose, Finlay didn’t have a big ditch (the Panama Canal) to build. Reed did. And what Reed rediscovered allowed Army Surgeon General William Gorgas to all but wipe out yellow fever in Florida, Havana, and Panama.

Gorgas? Wasn’t there a Civil War general – a Confederate, no less – with that surname? What are the odds …?

So I looked it up.

And I read that William C. Gorgas was indeed the eldest son of Josiah Gorgas, a Pennsylvanian who joined the Confederacy because he had married the daughter of an Alabama governor, and it was probably more than his life was worth to try to remain loyal to the Union. Gorgas spent the war in Richmond as Chief of Ordnance, in which role he proved to be about the only truly effective administrator the Confederacy had. Johnny Reb didn’t have a uniform, he didn’t have shoes, he didn’t have rations. But he did have guns and ammunition.

For which I always figured that Josiah Gorgas finished the Confederate Revolutionary Civil War at the end of a hempen rope. But this might possibly have made it difficult for William Gorgas to come into this world.

So I looked it up.

And I read that, not only did Josiah Gorgas not face execution for being perhaps the person most responsible, after Robert E. Lee, for making … um … that war as long and bloody as it was, he wound up as President of the University of Alabama. Where the library was named after his wife.

Wasn’t it the University of Alabama that only started recruiting African-Americans to its football team after it got beat by an integrated University of Southern California team coached by John McKay?

So I …

She: And did you finish that report?

He: What report?

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. And that, folks, is why he still has to pull all nighters!

  2. Yes Quilly, but there is so much stuff out there!

  3. Wow! Seriously interesting research. Much more interesting than say… writing a report.

    What happened next OC?

  4. You sure do have an inquiring mind… and of such knowledge is built.

  5. Quilly, are you saying I’m too easily distract … wow, what a bug that was that just crawled across the screen. Wonder if it’s a native?

    Hear, hear, Brian.

    A lot of worrying about that report, Thumbelina. 😦

    Kitty, your kind thought reminds me of the cartoon (I think it was a Far Side) where the child is spending all his time on video games, and the admiring parents are seeing him as a modern-day Pinball Wizard millionaire …

    • I suspect we all have hopes of being millionaires some day… just wish the path were shorter.

      • But then we’d all be millionaires – and the millions might just be enough to get you a cup of joe. Hell, when I was born, people were living comfortably on 5 grand a year …

  6. Internet access can not be a plus for someone like you.

    • I blame it all on Sesame Street, cooper. The whole attention-deficit thing …

  7. Hahaha. I know this syndrome well. It can lead to blogging if you aren’t careful. The CDC is the only major federal agency outside the DC area because it was initially created to fight mosquito-borne diseases. You can look it up.

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