Carlos Juan Finlay, Physician

Carlos Juan Finlay, Physician, Discovered the Cause of Yellow Fever

When an illness shakes the world, people want answers. When it comes to yellow fever, we have Carlos Juan Finlay to thank for those answers.

Twenty years before anyone took his findings seriously, Finlay, the son of a respected physician, had published findings of his experiments to prove mosquitos were the reason for yellow fever.

He embarked to find answers to other diseases, like cholera, which were ravaging populations in the Americas and abroad, and while his discovery of the origins of yellow fever proved to be true, people dismissed his findings due to the methods he used to come to them. Finally, Dr. Walter Reed of the U.S. Army saw that yellow fever was killing more people than the Spanish-American War and listened to Finlay’s theory. While people tried to credit Reed with discovering the fever’s cause, he always rightly attributed credit to Finlay.

Carlos Juan Finlay was nominated for several Nobel Prizes but was never awarded any. However, many institutes in the world bear his name, and his birthday, December 3, is known as Medicine Day in the Americas.

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