- A Most Satisfactory Man: The Story of Theodore Brevard Hayne, Last Martyr of Yellow Fever
This slim volume is packed with readable information. Its author, as both an infectious disease specialist and a medical historian, is well qualified to be the biographer of Theodore Brevard Hayne, a little-known warrior against malaria and yellow fever. The prologue, six chronological chapters, and epilogue comprise a “life-and-times” biography, which situates the short-lived Hayne (1898–1930) [End Page 140] within his family as well as within the history of efforts to combat malaria and yellow fever.
Hayne’s interest in mosquito-borne diseases began in childhood under the tutelage of his father, who was the state health officer for South Carolina for forty years. As an adolescent, the younger Hayne studied the Anopheles mosquito with the eminent malariologists Henry Carter and Joseph Le Prince. He obtained a bachelor’s degree from the Citadel, and then joined the U.S. Public Health Service, where his mentor was the distinguished parasitologist and bacteriologist Marshall A. Barber. After graduating from medical school, Hayne spent the last three years of his life with the Rockefeller Foundation International Health Division in Ibadan, Nigeria, where he contracted yellow fever and died.
The author has delved into a variety of mostly unpublished archival material from South Carolina depositories; a host of supervisory reports, diaries, and personal correspondence in the possession of the present-day Hayne family; material from the Rockefeller Foundation and Institute; and published primary, secondary, and tertiary sources in malariological and yellow-fever studies. The book also contains a telling series of photographs of Hayne and his family, at home and in the field, which lend flesh to the text.
Bryan organizes the information so that it appears to “speak for itself.” This is both a strength and a weakness of the book. There are topics that deserve more extended treatment, such as the problematic aspects of Hayne’s relations with his political physician-father. This reader also wished for more interpretation of the father’s psychological and vocational influence (for better or worse) on the son. But the book gains much from its unusual perspective: while the history of medicine enjoys a plethora of biographies about medicine’s great researchers, clinicians, and teachers, it offers relatively few volumes that deal with individual, “ordinary” physicians in the field and trenches—in contrast to military history, which has balanced its focus on major strategists and campaigns with the publication of memoirs, letters, diaries, and empathic biographies of common soldiers and even wartime civilians. Here, however, is the story of a physician who, according to some of his mentors and colleagues, lacked any scientific or literary brilliance: in their reports and eulogies, they praised primarily his moral character and attractive personality, along with his notable enthusiasm and aptitude for field work; none mentioned any particular intellectual gifts, and several actually denied them.
All in all, Bryan has given us not a hagiography, but a clear and balanced picture of one physician, with all his strengths and deficiencies.