FOR ONE who has been a physician for 65 years, an invitation to tap his recollections about public health looses memories of once common communicable diseases now often unknown to younger physicians, as well as diseases then new on the horizon. In the early decades of this century, infectious disease was almost synonymous with public health. Although some pathogens had been identified before my birth (1898), the etiology of other common contagious diseases had to await the identification of viruses.
To the physician in those days, who had recourse only to symptomatic treatment, the death rate for some diseases was appalling. In 1900, deaths from influenza and pneumonia ranked first and tuberculosis second, accounting, respectively, for 11.8% and 11.3% of all mortality. Diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever, and whooping cough took the lives of one fourth of the children between ages 1 and 14 years. The highest mortality rate beyond infancy