Medical Miracle in Panama III

Lead: Sanitation made possible the construction of the Panama Canal.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the years following the Spanish American War, Army Surgeon Dr. Walter Reed had transformed the city of Havana, Cuba, virtually eliminating the tropical diseases of malaria and yellow fever. He did so by rejecting the common medical wisdom of the time that such illnesses were caused by bad air or swamp gas. Reed went after the mosquito which, some scientists at the time believed, transmitted the diseases when it fed upon a victim. Reed cleaned up the city. Malaria and yellow fever were almost completely eradicated.

Medical Miracle in Panama II

Lead: Before they could build the Panama Canal, American engineers had to eradicate malaria and yellow fever.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Attempting to duplicate their triumph in the construction of the Suez Canal, French engineers were defeated in great measure by two deadly diseases. Malaria and yellow fever had for time immemorial been the curse of the tropics. Thousands died before the French gave up the quest in the 1880s.

Medical Miracle in Panama I

Lead: Before breaching the Panamanian land bridge, the builders of the Isthmus Canal knew they first had to deal with disease.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: After his brilliant construction of the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps set out in the 1870s to duplicate his achievement by crafting a shipping canal across the Isthmus of Panama. He failed. De Lesseps underestimated the enormity of the task, his technology was much too primitive, and the French design for a sea-level canal was fatally flawed, but much of the failure can be attributed to a deadly pair of diseases. Malaria and yellow fever took thousands of lives and put many more in bed for weeks of convalescence and depression. Engineers freshly graduated from the École Polytechnique in Paris would arrive in Colon filled with enthusiastic anticipation and die within a week. Thousands of manual laborers recruited from Caribbean islands fell victim in this grim harvest of death.

Miracle of Anesthesia II

Lead: Until 1846 the work of the medical surgeon was a gruesome, often brutal exercise in torture, but for seventy years the solution had been just a giggle away.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: With the invention of the ligature - the stitch - by a French military surgeon in the sixteenth century, the practice of surgery began to take on a certain scientific respectability. No longer was the stump of an amputee dipped in boiling tar to seal the blood vessels nor were wounds cauterized with hot irons. They were sewn up. With the ability to close a wound as well as open it, a surgical operation might actually save someone's life on occasion. However, the strongest block to successful surgery was the pain it inflicted on the patient, or better said, the victim. Yet, after 1772, the solution, even though unrecognized for years, had at last become available.

Miracle of Anesthesia I

Lead: The practice of surgery was a brutal affair and lagged behind other sciences because people could not stand the pain.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The scientific revolution kicked into high gear during the years between 1500 and 1800. Galileo popularized the work of Copernicus the Polish scholar who insisted that the sun rather than the earth lay at the center of the solar system. William Harvey described the circulation of blood and Sir Isaac Newton, one of history’s greatest thinkers, gave the universe a philosophical order and contributed to the development of calculus and higher mathematics. Botany, biology, and chemistry also enjoyed a time of advancement and new fields related to medicine, including bacteriology and nutritional science, emerged from this period of intellectual ferment. However, the practice of surgery lagged far behind its companion sciences. There could be little regular exploration or cure of diseased living human flesh until there was invented an effective pain killer. Most people would rather bear the illness or die than endure the torment associated with a surgical cure.

The Challenger Disaster

Lead: In early 1986, after years of almost unblemished success in its space shuttle program, NASA got ready to launch number twenty-five. This time it would welcome the first civilian. School teacher Christa McAuliffe would ride into space on the Challenger.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The winter of 1985-86 was unusually cold on the central Florida Atlantic coast. During the night of January 27th Cape Canaveral was swept with an ice storm, but dawn on the 28th was clear and as the morning continued the sky became a brilliant cloudless blue. After fits and starts, McAuliffe and the other six members of the crew were photographed, climbed aboard the shuttle and prepared for launch.

Scopes Monkey Trial III

Lead: In the hot summer of 1925 the State of Tennessee prosecuted John Thomas Scopes for teaching the theory of evolution.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: While a believer in evolution, Scopes merely made his students aware of Darwin's theory in the run-up to their end-of-the-year examinations. At stake was the constitutionality of the Butler Act, Tennessee's statute outlawing teaching anything contrary to the Bible.

Scopes Monkey Trial II

Lead: In the summer of 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow met in legal conflict during the trial of John Thomas Scopes. Their clash was as much cultural as it was legal.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Scopes agreed to be the defendant in a case testing the constitutionality of the Butler Act which was Tennessee's attempt to prevent teaching of ideas in the public schools thought to be in conflict with the Bible. The prosecution invited William Jennings Bryan to lead its team. John Scopes accepted the help of Clarence Darrow in the defense.