Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dr. Albert Freeman Africanus King

Albert Freeman Africanus King (born 1841; died 1914) was a bystander physician who was pressed into service during the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In addition, King was one of the earliest to suggest the connection between mosquitos and malaria.

On January 18, 1841, King was born in Ambrosden, near Bicester, a village in the Cherwell District of north-eastern Oxfordshire in England. His father was a doctor interested in the colonization of Africa. He was named Africanus "because of his father's admiration" for that continent. King was ten when his family emigrated from the United Kingdom to the United States.

King was a degreed Doctor of Medicine (MD). He attended both the Columbia Medical College (now George Washington University Medical School) and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1861, he graduated from Columbia at age twenty. In 1865, he graduated from Pennsylvania at the age of twenty-four.

During the American Civil War, King was in Washington, DC, and in the audience at Ford's Theatre when Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Some suggest King was the first physician to reach Lincoln. But the accounts of the other physicians present, Dr. Charles Augustus Leale and Dr. Charles Sabin Taft, suggest that King was second or third.

King later became a professor of obstetrics in Washington, DC and at the University of Vermont.

In 1882, King proposed a method to eradicate malaria from Washington, DC. His method was to encircle the city with a wire screen as high as the Washington Monument. Many people took this as a jest, partly because the link between malaria and mosquitoes had, at that time, been hypothesized by only a few physicians. It was not until 1898 that Ronald Ross proved mosquitoes were a vector for malaria (he won the Nobel Prize for the discovery just four years later). However impractical, King was on the right track for malaria control, well in advance of the rest of the medical profession.



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