Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in American medicine is that of Dr. Walter Reed. Reed would become a symbol of army medicine in the years after his death with the naming of the military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, in his honor. Before that, his work resulted in important advances in patient care and taming one of the most feared diseases of the time, yellow fever.
Reed was born in eastern Virginia in 1851. He was the youngest of five children. His father was a Methodist minister, which required him to travel away from the family home often to preach the gospel at far-flung rural churches. Reed was a brilliant child, and he was part of a family of high achievers, including an older brother who later became a judge and another who also became a preacher. Their education was through a series of private schools and tutors. Their mother died while the children were still young, and the family moved to North Carolina where the children’s maternal grandparents cared for them while their father continued his work for the church.
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