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Juniata Historian, Student Collaborate on Research, Lecture

(Posted October 18, 2010)

Lauren Chambers, a junior from Economy, Pa. studying history

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The elimination or eradication of contagious diseases throughout the world has long been a mission for medical agencies and private foundations in the United States. David Sowell, professor of history at Juniata College, will illuminate a lesser-known, but highly effective medical campaign to eliminate yellow fever from Yucatan, Mexico in a lecture at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 27, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Bookend Lecture series features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata College faculty.

Sowell's lecture, "The Rockefeller Foundation and the Campaign to Eliminate Yellow Fever in Yucatan: Findings from Goodman-Supported Student/Faculty Research," will be a collaborative effort, as Juniata junior Lauren Chambers, of Economy, Pa., details her own research on the historic outbreak. Chambers, who is majoring in health studies, is a 2008 graduate of Ambridge Area High School. She is the daughter of Robert and Lorraine Chambers of Economy and presented her research on the Yucatan this summer at the Summer Landmark Research Symposium at Juniata.

The lecture will provide insights into what role the Rockefeller Foundation played in the eradication campaign. Some scholars have theorized that the foundation deserves substantial credit for the triumph. Others claim that Mexican and Yucatec public health officials were primarily responsible for the success of the campaign.

The presentation will examine how the International Health Board, a branch of the Rockefeller Foundation, played a role in a 1920s campaign to eliminate yellow fever from the vast Yucatan territory in Mexico. The lecture will cover a short history of yellow fever, the public health innovations that helped control the disease, and the IHB's difficulties and gaining access to Mexican territory.

Chambers worked with Sowell over this past summer as a Goodman Scholar, a research scholarship created by David Goodman, a 1974 Juniata alumnus. The scholarships are available to students in the humanities, social sciences and earth sciences to pursue research opportunities with faculty. In addition to working at Juniata, Sowell and Chambers traveled to the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. to complete part of their research.

Sowell's research interests focus on the social history of Latin America, focusing mainly on labor history and the history of medicine. He has written "The Tale of Healer Miguel Perdomo Neira: Healing, Ideologies, and Power in the Nineteenth-Century Andes (2001)" and "The Early Colombian Labor Movement: Artisans and Politics in Bogotá, 1832-1919" (published in1992). He is currently writing and researching his third book, "A History of Social Violence in Latin America."

Sowell joined the Juniata faculty in 1989 as an assistant professor of history. He was promoted to associate professor in 1992 and was promoted to full professor in 2001. From 1996 until 1999, Sowell served as assistant academic dean and director of international programs.

He received the Beachley Award for Distinguished Academic Service in 2007 and received the Junior Faculty Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1994. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Western Kentucky University in 1975, and a bachelor's degree in history from Grand Valley State College in 1976. He earned a master's degree in 1980 and a doctorate in 1986, both from the University of Florida.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.