Joseph James Kinyoun

Discoverer of Bubonic Plague in America and Father of the National Institutes of Health

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About the Book

In March 1900, Dr. Joseph James Kinyoun, a Surgeon with the Marine Hospital Service and student of Louis Pasteur and Dr. Robert Koch, detected bubonic plague in San Francisco, while stationed on Angel Island as a federal quarantine officer. His discovery of the plague led to an immediate outcry from California’s governor, local and state politicians, and the city’s commercial interests. The hyper-sensationalized journalism of San Francisco’s newspapers leapt at the opportunity. Kinyoun would be ridiculed in the press for over a year, leading to death threats and a $50,000 bounty on his head. Eventually, California’s quarantine caused an enormous uproar.

In time, a special plague commission was installed by the U. S. Treasury Department. After the commissioners completed their report, Supervisory Surgeon-General Walter Wyman withheld it from the public leading to charges of a coverup. In the end, Wyman released the report, which totally vindicated Kinyoun, but a deal had been brokered behind the scenes wherein Kinyoun was removed from his post. This book tells a timely story about yellow journalism, coverup, corruption, the struggle between science and politics, and the consequences of blind denial of the truth.

About the Author(s)

Retired banker Joseph K. Houts, Jr. was senior vice president at Commerce Bank, a Midwest bank holding company with offices in 11 states. A major portion of his job involved community development on all levels. He is a life board member of The Salvation Army and the Mosaic Life Care Foundation, has been a Trustee for the Pony Express National Museum, is the treasurer of the St. Joseph Downtown Community Improvement District and a board of director for the St. Joseph, Missouri Regional Port Authority. He lives in St. Joseph, Missouri..

Bibliographic Details

Joseph K. Houts, Jr.
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 35 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8290-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4373-1
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

“Joseph Kinyoun was a highly important yet tragic figure in the scientific and medical fields at the turn of the early 20th century. Today his legacy has been largely forgotten, but this biography by his great grandson brings Kinyoun’s contributions vividly to life with a fresh perspective based on extensive research in his personal papers and multiple other sources.”—William E. Parrish, Professor of History Emeritus, Mississippi State University