Yellow Fever and Fame

Infectious Diseases continually shape human history, often through their impact on leaders in Science, Politics, War, Religion, Industry and Art.  The death of a King, President or Pope from plague or malaria can affect us all, and serves as a useful paradigm in the appreciation of these conditions.  For many, yellow fever (YF) remains a “rare tropical disease” which (as in the current Angolan outbreak) periodically erupts in the developing world.  Few realize that major YF outbreaks were recorded in the United States, Spain, Italy and even England into the early twentieth century.  A chronology of outbreaks reported in Europe and North America appears below.

A list of notables who died of YF includes Benjamin Latrobe, the architect who designed the United States Capitol Building, and Henry Lehman, the financier who founded Lehman Brothers.  Both contracted the disease in New Orleans, respectively in 1820 and 1855.  Heads of State who died of YF included Haitian President Alexandre Petion (died 1818) and Thomas Dundas, Governor of Guadeloupe (died 1794).  Non-fatal attacks appear in the biographies of American President Zachary Taylor, Texas President Anson Jones and Chilean Supreme Director, Bernardo O’Higgins.

Other victims of YF included Cyrus McCormick, Thomas Nast, Donald Meek, John James Audubon and Alexander Selkirk.  McCormick, inventor of the mechanical reaper, acquired the infection in Virginia at the age of 5.  Nast, a legendary political cartoonist, was stricken in Ecuador in 1902; and Meek an iconic character actor, was rendered permanently bald after surviving Yellow fever during the Spanish American War.  Audubon survived an attack of YF in 1803, after emigrating to Philadelphia from Haiti.  That year, outbreaks of the disease were reported in both. Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish castaway who served as inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, died of YF during Navy service in West Africa (1721).   Indeed, military activity often exposes famous people to “exotic” diseases.  Thus, British war hero Horatio Nelson suffered a nonfatal attack of YF in Cuba in 1780; and Samuel Nicholas, first Commander of the United States Marines, died during an outbreak in Philadelphia in 1790.  A number of former Civil War Generals succumbed to the disease, including Charles Griffin (1867), Cyrus Hamlin (1867), John Bell Hood (1879) and Edward Ord (1883).

To date, over 500 health-care workers have died during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa; and it is no surprise that several notable victims of Yellow fever have been scientists working with the disease itself.  Physicians John Conrad Otto, Philip Syng Physick and Benjamin Rush all survived attacks of YF while working in Philadelphia.  Medical personnel who died of YF included doctors Jesse Willam Lazear (1900) and James Carroll (1907), and nurse Clara Maass (1901), who succumbed after purposely exposing themselves to the bites of infected mosquitoes in Cuba.  Other physicians who died of YF (country – year of death) included Francois Carlo Antommarchi (Cuba – 1838), personal physician to Napoleon Bonaparte; Richard Bayley (New York -1801), the first Chief Health Officer of New York City; and Paul A. Lewis (Brazil – 1929).  In 1928, Hideo Noguchi and William Alexander Young both died of Yellow fever while studying the disease in Ghana.

Notable victims of Yellow fever have also included three painters, a chess master, four authors / journalists, and two co-conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.  A full listing and additional background data are available on a free website which I maintain at   The site is interactive.  Users can explore the medical history of over 22,000 “VIP’s” (and 130 famous animals) ; or generate lists based on disease, profession and year of death.  Although specific diagnoses are derived primarily from biographies, which are often speculative or biased, entries are regularly updated as additional information becomes available.  The author will value feedback and suggestions.


A Chronology of Yellow Fever Outbreaks

in Europe and North America [1,2]


     1730 – An outbreak (2,200 fatal cases) was reported in Cadiz, Spain (Cadiz recorded subsequent outbreaks in 1731, 1736, 1764, 1800, 1802, 1805, 1810, 1813, 1819 and 1821.) 

     1741 - An outbreak of presumed yellow fever was reported in Malaga, Spain.

     1793 – An outbreak (4,044 fatal cases) was reported in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

     1794 – An outbreak (360 fatal cases) was reported in Baltimore, Maryland.

     1796 – An outbreak was reported in New Orleans, Louisiana.

     1797 – An outbreak (1,292 fatal cases) was reported in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

     1798 – Outbreaks were reported in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (3,506 fatal cases) , New Haven, Connecticut and New York City.

     1799 – An outbreak (1,015 fatal cases) was reported in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

     1800 – An outbreak (1,197 fatal cases) was reported in Baltimore, Maryland. 

     1800 – An outbreak (60,000 fatal cases) was reported in Spain. 

     1802 - An outbreak was reported in Brest, France.    

     1803 - An outbreak was reported in Barcelona, Spain.

     1803 - An outbreak of presumed yellow fever was reported in Malaga, Spain.

     1803 – Outbreaks were reported in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (3,900 fatal cases) and New York City (606 fatal cases).

     1804 – An outbreak (2,000 cases, 650 fatal) was reported in Livorno, Italy.
     1804 – Outbreaks were reported in Gibraltar and Alicante, Spain. 

     1808 – An outbreak was reported in Georgia (U.S.).

     1810 - An outbreak of was reported in Barcelona, Spain.

     1810 - An outbreak of presumed yellow fever was reported in Malaga, Spain.

     1813 - An outbreak (899 fatal cases) was reported in Gibraltar.

     1819 – An outbreak was reported in Cadiz, Spain. 

     1820 – Outbreaks were reported in New Orleans, Louisiana * and Savannah, Georgia. 

     1821 – An outbreak (20,000 fatal cases = one-sixth of the population) was reported in Barcelona, Spain following introduction by a ship from Cuba. 

     1823 – An outbreak was reported in Lisbon, Portugal. 

     1828 – An outbreak (5,383 cases, 1,183 fatal) was reported in Gibraltar. 

     1855 - An outbreak was reported in New Orleans, Louisiana. *

     1838 to 1839 – An outbreak was reported in Charleston, South Carolina. 

     1839 – An outbreak (250 fatal cases – 5% of the population) was reported in Galveston, Texas.

     1852 – An outbreak was reported in Charleston, South Carolina. 

     1852 – An outbreak was reported in Southampton, England. 
     1855 – An outbreak was reported in Virginia. 

     1856 – An outbreak (538 fatal cases) was reported in New York City.

     1857 – An outbreak was reported in Oporto and Lisbon, Portugal.

     1861 – An outbreak (40 cases, 26 fatal) was reported in Saint-Nazaire, France. 
     1862 – An outbreak was reported in Wilmington, North Carolina.      1863 – An outbreak was reported in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

     1865 – Outbreaks (27 cases, 17 fatal) were reported in Wales, and in Swansea, England (imported from Cuba). 

     1867 – Outbreaks were reported in Galveston, Texas (1,150 fatal cases) and New Orleans, Louisiana.

     1870 – An outbreak (1,235 fatal cases) in Barcelona was related to a ship arriving from Cuba.

     1873 – An outbreak was reported in Shreveport, Louisiana.

     1873 to 1875 – An outbreak was reported in Pensacola, Florida. 

     1876 – An outbreak was reported in Savannah, Georgia.

     1877 – An outbreak was reported in Port Royal, South Carolina.

     1878 to 1879 – Outbreaks were reported in Mississippi , Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana (4,046 fatal cases).

     1882 – An outbreak was reported in Pensacola, Florida.

     1887 to 1888 – An outbreak was reported in Florida.

     1888 – An outbreak was reported in Mississippi 

     1905 – Outbreaks were reported in New Orleans, Louisiana (8,399 cases) and Pensacola Florida.

     1909 – An outbreak was reported on a ship arriving to Saint Nazaire, France from Martinique – with no secondary spread to the port. 

*  Asterisk denotes outbreaks cited in biographies only.  All others are derived from the medical literature.



  1. 1. Berger SA. Yellow Fever: Global Status, 2016. 152 pp, 124 graphs, 983 references. Gideon e-books,
  2. 2. Berger S.A. Infectious Diseases of the United States, 2016.  1,305 pp, 489 graphs, 15,433 references. Gideon e-books,

Featured on ProMED

Birds, Pigs and Silent VIP’s

Almost 100 years have passed since Rose Cleveland (and over fifty-million other humans) died from the paradigm One Health Disease: “Swine flu”  During January to April 2016, an alphabet-soup of “swine flu” and “bird flu” have continued to affect birds and / or humans, on all continents: H1N1, H5N1, H5N2, H7N9, H5N6, H7N8. In 2015, the list also included H5N2, H5N3, H5N7, H7N3 and H7N7.

Rose Cleveland – sister of President Grover Cleveland who acted as “first lady” to her bachelor brother - was one of approximately 150 famous people that perished in the “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918 to 1920. Best known at the time were Francisco Rodrigues Alves (Brazilian President Elect) and Louis Botha (President of South Africa).

No less than ten stars of the Silent Movie era are known to have died during the pandemic.

True Boardman – appeared in 137 films

William Courtleigh, Jr.

Dark Cloud (Elijah Tahemont) – Canadian Indian, appeared in 34 movies

Myrtle Gonzalez – Hollywood’s first Hispanic movie star

Shelly Hull – Brother of actor Henry Hull

Joseph Kaufman

Vera Kholodnaya – The first Russian star of Silent Movies

Julian L’Estrange

Harold A. Lockwood

Wayland Trask, Jr. – Starred in several Mack Sennett comedies

Following the Spanish flu of 1918 to 1920, influenza has continued to contribute to the deaths of famous people: Pope John Paul, II; Juan Peron (Argentina), Francesco Nitti and Paolo Boselli (Italy); performers Angela Baddeley, Lillie Langtree, Tallulah Bankhead, Jean Harlow and Trevor Howard; baseball legends Dick Bertell and Hack Wilson; movie directors Jules Dassin and Luchino Visconti; and philosopher Bertrand Russell. In fact, two additional Silent Movie stars managed to join my famous-flu-deaths list after the Spanish flu had already passed: Edward J. Connelly (1928) and Henry B. Walthall (1936).

These lists are abstracted from a hobby which I maintain on-line at   The site is free and interactive – users can explore the medical file of a specific VIP; or generate lists by profession, disease, year … or any combination

Fame and Zoonotic Diseases

Diseases acquired from animals have repeatedly shaped human history; but the influence of zoonoses on well-known leaders in science, politics, war, religion, art, industry or even crime is not as well known.  The suffering or death of a world leader from plague, anthrax or rabies can serve as an important paradigm in the appreciation of One Health.

In this series I will explore the impact of zoonotic diseases on famous and infamous humans throughout history.  Background data are derived from a “hobby” which I maintain at   The site is interactive.  Users can explore the diseases of over 22,000 “VIP’s”; or generate lists based on disease, profession or year of death.  Although specific “diagnoses” are derived primarily from biographies, and are often speculative or biased, entries are regularly updated as additional information becomes available.

Rabies and Fame

Although rabies was first described as early as 1930 B.C.E., only five famous persons are known to have died of the disease. 

The first VIP to die of rabies was Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond.  Richmond was appointed Governor General of North America in 1818, but died only one year later after contracting rabies from the bite of a fox in Quebec.

In 1868, Gieseppe Abbati, an Italian painter from the Macchiaoli School, died of rabies after his pet dog bit him.  Ironically, both Abbati and the dog had been memorialized in a portrait painted three years earlier (see  Six years later, Ada Clare, a little known American actress died of rabies following the bite of a dog.

Hayes St. Leger, 4th Viscount Doneraile was an Irish peer who sat in the British House of Lords.  In 1887, he developed rabies from the bite of a pet fox, and died as his house-servants smothered him to end his suffering.

Actor, Fernando Poe, Sr. is a household name in the Philippines.  Poe was injured while filming a movie in 1951, and died of rabies after allowing a dog to lick his wound.  Thus, the disease does not require an overt animal bite for transmission.

Ironically, the best-known encounter with rabies did not result in death.  In 1886, a Spanish child prodigy was bitten by a rabid dog.  One year earlier, a Frenchman named Pasteur had developed a vaccine for the disease, and this boy became one of the first humans to be saved through vaccination.  In 1891, young Pablo Casals went on to give his first cello recital, in Barcelona.

Lung Cancer and Hollywood

On August 26 1930, Lon Cheney, Jr. died of a lung tumor – the first movie actor to die of cancer.

Paul Newman was five years old.

Some people collect stamps – I collect death and disease. For over 45 years, I’ve scoured all available biographies, anthologies, major newspapers, the Internet … for the diseases and deaths of famous persons. Stamp collections cost money and take up space. Death arrives to my laptop free of charge.

The earliest Hollywood death of known causes was that of Director, Francis Boggs – shot to death by an insane janitor named Frank Minematsu, in 1911. As of October 2008, 1,799 movie people (including 173 porno stars, and 273 Producers / Directors) have succumbed to identifiable diseases or injuries. Countless others died “after a long illness,” “suddenly,” “of natural causes,” etc and are not included in this analysis.

Trends in Hollywood deaths are contrasted with statistics for all famous persons in Figure 1. Note that since 1950, the relative number of movie obits have actually decreased somewhat.


Neil Armstrong: Death from Coronary Bipass

This week Neil Armstrong died following surgery to open blockages in his coronary arteries.  To date, only 25 famous persons (VIP’s) have died from this procedure, accounting for only 0.35% of the 7,006 VIP deaths recorded since the procedure was developed (see list below).   The first of these (Eisenstadt, Jacobs and Kieslowski) occurred in 1996. 

VIPatients lists the diseases / causes of deaths for 61 Astronauts and Cosmonauts.  35 of these have died of vehicular accidents (including 13 airplane accidents), 11 from cancer and 9 from heart attack..  One Astronaut, Charles Jones was murdered – a passenger aboard a hijacked airplane on September 11, 2001.

Death Associated with Coronary Bypass or Angioplasty

  Armstrong, Neil

  Clower, Jerry 

  de Marco, Guido 


  Eisenstadt, Benjamin 

  Eisner, Will 

  Gemmell, David 

  Glickman, Marty 

  Griffey, Dick 

  Guinzburg, Thomas 

  Jacobs, Bernard 

  Jones (Singer), Joe 

  Kieslowski, Krysztof 

  Leela, Chindodi 

  Maddoux, Marlin 

  Mansfield, Mike 

  Norden, Christine 

  Randall, Tony 

  Rock, Joe 

  Serling, Rod 

  Sutton, Ed 

  Thesz, Lou 

  Trafficante, Santo 

  Wando (Wanderley Alves dos Reis) 

  Waxman, Al 

  Wise, Ernie 

 VIPatients is an IPhone / Android App which follows the diseases and deaths of ALL famous persons.

Movie Directors: Suicide

This week, Tony Scott jumped to his death from a bridge in Los Angeles- the 17th Producer/Director to commit suicide (full list below). As of August 20, 2012 the VIPatients app documents the diseases / deaths of 19,766 famous people.   A cause of death is listed for 17,676 of these – of whom 1,132 (6.4%) have committed suicide.  

203 (6.3%) of people in the Movie Industry have taken their own lives, including 17 (3.7%) of Producers / Directors.   

 Jumping was listed as the specific suicide method for 7.2% of all famous persons, 8.8% of  Movie People … and 29.4% of Producers / Directors !

Producers / Directors who have committed suicide:

Berkeley, Busby 

Bern, Paul 

Davidson, Paul 

Desai, Manmohan *

Fassbinder, Rainer Werner 

Itami, Juzo  *

Jutra, Claude 

Monicelli, Mario  *

Moore, Perry 

Quine, Richard 


Rosson, Richard

Scott, Tony *

Smith, Pete  *

Van Dyke, W.S. 

Whale, James 

Woodbridge, Strong Van Dyke

 * Committed suicide by jumping


1. One additional Director, Akira Kurosawa, attempted suicide by slashing his wrists and throat in 1971 (unsucessful) 

2. During 1941 to 2012, three Producers / Directors (Monicelli, Van Dyke and Wooodbridge) committed suicide while under treatment for cancer … accounting for 18% of suicides in this profession.   Concurrent cancer is listed for only 4.3% of suicides in other professions which occurred during the same period.

VIPatients is the only comprehensive source for disease and death among ALL famous people … from The Bible to today’s headlines.  Now available as APP for IPhone and Android.


Malaria in Singers and Actors

A  posting in ProMED mentions the recent bout of malaria suffered by singer Cheryl Cole.  Malaria is included among the medical conditions of only 145 /19,465 famous patients reviewed by VIPatients.*  The disease accounted for only 50 of 17,398 fatal conditions in this population.  Seven popular musicians and actors are known to have suffered from malaria: Michael Caine, George Clooney, Al Jolson, Audie Murphy, Cheryl Cole, Errol Flynn and Juma Santos.  Santos died of the disease in 2007.

* VIPatients, an interactive IPhone / Android application maintained by Dr. Berger, follows the diseases and deaths of all famous persons throughout history


Death in a Bathtub

Fo all it’s worth, Whitney Houston is the 23rd famous person known to have died in a bath-tub (catagory includes showers and jaccuzzis).  

The complete list follows.  (musicians are marked with an asterix *)

  Allen, Hervey  
  Barnett, Isobel  
  Clayton, Paul  *
  Cochran, Sir Charles Blake  
  Dominguez, Oscar  
  Dutschke, ‘Red Rudy’  
  Farndon, Pete  *
  Givens, Candy  *
  Guzman, Jacobo  
  Hardy, Mary  
  Heggen, Thomas O.  
  Houston, Whitney * 
  Marat, Jean-Paul  
  Mauldin, Bill  
  Montez, Maria  
  Morphy, Paul  
  Morrison, Jim  *
  Pfaff, Kristen  *
  Radcliffe, Marc  
  Redenbacher, Orville  
  Romanos III Argyros  

For the complete medical histories of these and 19,426 other IP’s, see the VIPatients app – now available for IPhone and Android … updated daily.

VIPatients App Goes Live !

This week, we launched a truly unique smart-phone Application = VIPatients    The new App is available on IPhone, and will soon be extended to Android.

As of December 2011, the app  30,000 individual medical problems / causes of death … for 19,328 famous people !

Users can access a single VIP by first or last name, or create a customized list by profession, disease, year of death … or any combination.   For example, list all famous movie stars who died of AIDS;  or all Popes who were murdered …….

A weekly alert will be automatically sent to subscribers, listing new additions to the data-base.