The Maryland Colloquium on the History of Technology, Science, and
Environment (MCHOTSE) is pleased to announce its session for March 5, 2009.
MALARIA & WAR: THE U.S. ANTIMALARIAL PROGRAM IN WORLD WAR II
Leo B. Slater, author of War and Disease: Biomedical Research on Malaria in
the Twentieth Century (Rutgers University Press, 2009).
The Colloquium meets in room TLF (Taliaferro Hall) 2110 at the University of
Maryland, College Park. Social hour with refreshments, 4:00-4:30 pm;
presentation and discussion, 4:30-6:00 pm.
Malaria is a major cause of mortality and morbidity during the twentieth
century remains one of the leading killers in the world today. Malaria’s
enormous impact on human populations throughout the modern era has often put
this disease at the center of colonial expansion, warfare, economic
transformation, and North/South global tensions. In the late 1930s, the
growing global conflict brought new attention to malaria. The US
antimalarial program during World War II was a Manhattan Project for
biomedicine. From 1939 to 1946, it screened some 14,000 compounds for
antimalarial activity, clinically ratified atabrine as the drug of choice in
1943, and, by war’s end, identified chloroquine as a superior compound.
Initiated by the National Research Council, the program drew on a set of
intellectual and organizational resources and models extending back to the
German pharmaceutical and dye industries and to such domestic institutions
as the Rockefeller Institutes and Foundation. Prospectively, the wartime
antimalarial program deserves historical attention as both an undertaking in
its own right one that helped to safeguard millions of GIs and as a model
for future large-scale biomedical research projects. Its later use as a
model was perhaps most clearly seen at the National Institutes of Health.
The innovations of the US wartime antimalarial program chiefly lay in three
areas: administration, scale, and communication. The program produced not
just research findings, novel compounds, and clinical protocols, it also
developed new organizational structures for scientific cooperation and
distributed research networks. I argue that wartime work was essential to
the development of NIH, if only because the confused and faltering
structures of the early war years, 1939-1943, suggest that an organizational
infrastructure for large scale, multi-center cooperative research did not
exist prior to World War II.
Taliaferro Hall is up the hill past the Memorial Chapel, off of U.S. Rte. 1
(Baltimore Ave.) in College Park. The University’s web site will provide a
map as well as advice on parking
look for building 043]. Many restricted lots at the university are available
to the public after 4:00 pm, but attendees are advised to read all parking
lot signs carefully. Lots C and L are the closest unrestricted lots (after
4 pm) to Taliaferro Hall.