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Download a Theodore Roosevelt Tour of the Museum

On Exhibit posts

The restored Theodore Roosevelt Memorial is now open, and a new self-guided tour with 17 stops—available as part of the Museum's Explorer app, or on our web site—highlights exhibits around the Museum with a connection to the Conservation President.

In this post, the first in a series, we explore one of the tour's stops: the giant mosquito model, 75 times bigger than life-size, on display in the Museum's Hall of North American Forests.

DF_MosquitoJLCrop

What, you may well ask, is Theodore Roosevelt's connection to a model of a giant mosquito?

In 1917, the Museum displayed this huge model of the species Anopheles maculipennis to educate the public about malaria and yellow fever. In 1897, medical researchers had pinpointed the Anophelese mosquito as the transmitter of malaria, and by 1900, determined that another mosquito, Aedes aegypti, transmitted yellow fever.

The findings were disputed by authorities who continued to believe that poor sanitary conditions were the culprit. The conflict nearly derailed the building of the Panama Canal where yellow fever was decimating the laborers.

TR Rotunda Mural Panama

A mural from the Museum's Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda depicting the creation of the Panama Canal.

© AMNH/D. Finnin


Colonel William Gorgas, an army doctor who had eliminated the disease in Cuba by destroying the breeding places of mosquitoes, was sent to Panama in 1904 where he ran into opposition from local authorities who eventually called for his removal. 

Drawing on scientific research, then-President Theodore Roosevelt embraced the controversial mosquito theory and made a decision that saved thousands of lives, declaring, “By George, I’ll back up Gorgas and we’ll see it through.”

In 15 months, Panama was clear of yellow fever. Construction proceeded and the canal was completed in 1914. 

Download the self-guided tour as part of the Museum's Explorer app, or on our web site.

Read more about Theodore Roosevelt’s lifelong association with the Museum in articles and videos celebrating the reopening of the renovated Theodore Roosevelt Memorial.

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American Museum of Natural History

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Phone: 212-769-5100

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except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
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