The Invisible and Indeterminable Valueof Ecology: From Malaria Control toEcological Research in the AmericanSouth
History and Philosophy
This essay tells the story of the Emory University Field Station, a malaria research station in southwest Georgia that operated from 1939 to 1958. Using the tools of environmental history and the history of science, it examines the station’s founding, its fieldwork, and its place within the broader history of malaria control, eradication, and research. A joint effort of Emory University, the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), this station was closely aligned with a broader movement of ideas about tropical diseases across the globe, but it also offers a case study of how science in the field can veer from mainstream thinking and official policy. As the CDC and other disease-fighting organizations were moving toward a global strategy of malaria eradication through the use of DDT, the Emory Field Station developed a postsanitarian approach to malaria. Drawing on resistance among American conservationists to environmental transformation in the name of malaria control, the station’s staff embraced the science and worldview of ecology in an effort to lighten public health’s hand on the land and to link human health to the environment in innovative, if sometimes opaque, ways. This essay, then, argues that the Emory Field Station represents an early confluence of ecology with the biomedical sciences, something very similar to what is now the important discipline of disease ecology.
Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
I would like to thank Paul Sutter, Lindsay Boring, Kay Kirkman, Bernard Lightman, H. Floris Cohen, and three anonymous referees for their comments on various drafts of this essay. Thanks also to the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center for providing initial research funding for the project. All use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (https:///journals.uchicago.edu/t-and-c).