Paul S. Sutter, “Public Health and the Panama Canal” | National Humanities Center


Paul S. Sutter, “Public Health and the Panama Canal”

November 9, 2022

When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it not only revolutionized international trade, but brought about new developments in public health. While diseases like yellow fever and malaria were seen as an inherent threat of “the tropics” by the Americans and French, the process of constructing the canal actually created conditions in which such diseases could proliferate more freely.

In this podcast, Paul S. Sutter (NHC Fellow, 2021–22) discusses the complex interplay of natural and cultural catalysts that can produce and spread disease. Understanding the ways that human activity can bring vectors and viral pathogens together is crucial to reckoning with historical, contemporary, and future public health challenges.

Sutter, Paul S.Paul S. Sutter is a professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (University of Washington Press, 2002) and Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South (University of Georgia Press, 2015); he is coauthor of The Art of Managing Longleaf: A Personal History of the Stoddard-Neel Approach (University of Georgia Press, 2010), and coeditor of Environmental History and the American South: A Reader (University of Georgia Press, 2009) and Coastal Nature, Coastal Culture: Environmental Histories of the Georgia Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2018). Sutter has published numerous articles and book chapters on the American wilderness movement, southern environmental history, US imperial environmental history, and environmental historiography, including a 2013 state-of-the-field essay in the Journal of American History.