Benign Application of Knowledge through Evolutionary Theory

  • David Sloan Wilson
Part of the Series in Biomedical Engineering book series (BIOMENG)

The Panama Canal was the largest engineering project of its time. It almost failed because of yellow fever and malaria. In their ignorance, the French and Americans attributed these diseases to moral weakness. As author David McCullough writes in The Path Between The Seas, “Nearly everyone was profoundly shaken whenever the death of some notably upright person seemed to make a mockery of such views. ‘Certainly his moral quality was above reproach,’ wrote one bewildered, grieving French engineer of another who had died of yellow fever the first year.” Eventually it was discovered that both yellow fever and malaria are transmitted by mosquitoes. In fact, mosquitoes were breeding under the very beds of the hospital patients, in bowls of water that were placed under each leg to deter ants. Once the true causes were understood, practical measures could be taken to bring the diseases under control.

The message of this story to the readers is that some problems require practical solutions....


Evolutionary Theory Yellow Fever Mutual Trust Factual Knowledge Unforeseen Consequence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Sloan Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Biology and AnthropologyState University of New YorkBinghamtonUSA

Personalised recommendations