Biography of Bailey K. Ashford (1873-1934)

Military doctor of U.S. origin, born in Washington, D.C. on September 18, 1873 and died in San Juan on September 10, 1934, discovered the parasite responsible for the hookworms, disease caused by a worm parasite that hosted on the walls of the intestine diminished defenses in the blood of the parasitized.

Doctor in medicine and science from Georgetown University, had graduation from the U.S. Army Colonel in 1898 when arrived in Puerto Rico, during the war against Spain. His research on tropical anaemia or hookworms, endemic disease in rural areas, causing thousands of deaths a year on the island, gave its fruit with the discovery of the responsible agent, the parasitic hookworm - the brown-rot ashfordii, named after its discoverer. Until then, it was thought that this type of anemia, manifested by an extreme physical weakness, produced by a diet poor in proteins, typical of the island, and some even blamed the condition to the tropical climate and the laziness of its inhabitants.

Ashford calculated that this disease affected to the majority of the rural population of Puerto Rico and in just one year (1900) caused the death of 12,000 people. He/She announced his discovery in 1902 before the Medical Association of Puerto Rico and a campaign based on an improvement of hygiene, preventive, and curative, carried out by the first Anemia Commission created by the Government, managed to eradicate the disease on the island. In 1911 he/she founded, along with the doctors Isaac González Martínez, Walter King, Francisco Seín and Pedro Gutiérrez Igaravidez, among others, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Centre which in 1926 became the school of Medicine of the University of Puerto Rico.