Maj. Gen. William Crawford Gorgas, Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George, is best known for his work in reducing the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry them. It was at a time when there was considerable skepticism and opposition to such measures. Gorgas, the first of six children of Josiah Gorgas and Amelia Gayle Gorgas, was born in Toulminville, Alabama, on Oct. 3, 1854, and died in London on July 3, 1920. He was a physician and the 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army.
After the end of the Spanish-American War, Gorgas was appointed Chief Sanitary Officer in Havana, Cuba, and worked to eradicate yellow fever and malaria.
Gorgas was made Surgeon General of the Army in 1914, in which position he was able to capitalize on the momentous work of another Army doctor, Maj. Walter Reed, who had himself capitalized on insights of a Cuban doctor, Carlos Finlay, to prove the mosquito transmission of yellow fever. As such, Gorgas won international fame battling the illness, which was then the scourge of tropical and sub-tropical climates, first in Florida, later in Havana, and finally at the Panama Canal.
As chief sanitary officer of the canal project, Gorgas implemented far-reaching sanitary programs including the draining of ponds and swamps, fumigation, mosquito netting, and public water systems. These measures were instrumental in facilitating the construction of the Panama Canal. They significantly prevented illness due to yellow fever and malaria, which had also been shown to be transmitted by mosquitoes, among the thousands of workers involved in the building canal.
In 1984, the Mobile County Health Department facility located on Bayou Street was rededicated as the Major General William C. Gorgas Clinic.