Science and Medicine

Entry Category: Science and Medicine

Thomas, Ruth Harris

Ruth Harris Thomas was a highly regarded amateur ornithologist whose column on birding in Arkansas was published by the Arkansas Gazette for about forty years. Her column not only documented area birds, but it also contributed to a growing appreciation for birds, birding, and habitat conservation. Ruth Harris was born in Kentucky on August 25, 1900, to Charles O. Harris and Columbia B. Cox Harris. She had two brothers. Majoring in English and journalism, Harris graduated from Louisiana State University in 1923, where she also edited the student newspaper. She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the autumn of 1923 to work as a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette newspaper. In 1927, she married Maine native Stanley Powers Rowland …

Ticks

Ticks belong to the phylum Arthropoda, class Arachnida, subclass Acari, suborder Parasitiformes, and order Ixodida (Metastigmata), which includes almost 900 recognized species. There are three families: Ixodidae, or the “hard” ticks (approximately 700 species); Argasidae, or the “soft” ticks (approximately 200 species); and Nuttalliellidae, containing only a single species, Nuttalliella namaqua, a tick found only in southern Africa. In Arkansas, nine genera and a total of nineteen species (three argasids and sixteen ixodids) are known. Another species, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) annulatus, has been extirpated from Arkansas. Ticks are a highly specialized group of obligate, bloodsucking, nonpermanent ectoparasitic arthropods of vertebrates (mostly on reptiles, birds, and mammals) and are distributed throughout the world. In addition to being irritating to hosts and causing …

Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000

After the establishment of the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 between several major U.S. tobacco companies and four state governments (Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and Mississippi), the remaining forty-six states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories not party to the original legal action were allowed to join into benefits conferred by the agreement. The tobacco companies were mandated to pay damages approaching the sum of $10 billion over an indefinite time period to the states joining the agreement, as well as acknowledge publicly that tobacco companies targeted youth in marketing and sales of products. In addition, the companies were subjected to sponsorship, marketing, and sales restrictions on their product. The State of Arkansas, agreeing not to file further litigation …

Topminnows

aka: Fundulids
aka: Killifishes
Topminnows belong to the Family Fundulidae, Order Cypriniformes, and Class Actinopterygii. This family also includes some North American killifishes. There are approximately forty-four to forty-six species that are found in the lowlands of North and Central America from southeastern Canada to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, including the Mississippi River drainage, and the islands of Bermuda and Cuba. Most (forty species) of topminnows belong to the genus Fundulus, and others are included in the genera Lucania (three species) and Leptolucania (a single species). The Family Fundulidae is a paraphyletic grouping of members of genera Fundulus and Lucania. There are six species of topminnows found in Arkansas. Topminnows occur in both freshwater and marine waters as well as brackish environments. They …

Tornado Outbreak of 1952

The tornado season of 1952 was a particularly eventful one throughout the state. Twenty-six tornadoes were reported to have touched down in Arkansas from January to November that year. While twenty-six is well below the modern average of about thirty-nine tornadoes per year in Arkansas, an unusually large number of these storms in 1952 were EF-3 and stronger on the Enhanced Fujita Scale used to rate the strength of tornadoes (the ratings go from EF-0 to EF-5). Of the twenty-six tornadoes in this outbreak, at least five were rated EF-4. Among these tornadoes, the most deadly and most widely reported was the March 21, 1952, EF-4 tornado that struck White County on March 21. Over the course of the year, …

Tornado Outbreak of March 1, 1997

The tornado outbreak of March 1, 1997, was one of the deadliest in the history of the state of Arkansas. Sixteen tornadoes tracked across the state, killing twenty-five Arkansans. Several of the tornadoes had unusually long tracks, traveling between fifty and seventy-five miles. There was also a higher than statistically expected number of tornadoes of F3 strength or higher—that is, tornadoes with wind speeds in excess of 158 miles per hour. Of the sixteen tornadoes, four were responsible for all fatalities in the state, as well as much of the property damage. All sixteen tornadoes were produced by four supercell thunderstorms, with the four killer tornadoes being spawned from two such storms that formed ahead of a cold front. The …

Tornadoes

Tornadoes—destructive, violently spinning vortices of air extending from high within severe thunderstorms to the surface of the earth—are more common in the United States than anywhere else on the planet. They are particularly prevalent in the area known as “Tornado Alley,” where the proper ingredients come together: a combination of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico pulled northward by storm systems dragging strong continental cold air from Canada. While Arkansas is not normally included on maps of the infamous Tornado Alley, which is usually considered to stretch from north Texas northward through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, the state has suffered many devastating tornado outbreaks. In January 1999, Arkansas recorded the most tornadoes on any individual January day in …

Towbin, Eugene Jonas

Eugene Jonas Towbin moved to Arkansas in 1955 to work at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital. He was a pioneer in the field of geriatric medicine, and his influence brought the first Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) in the country to Arkansas. He was instrumental in obtaining funding for the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and was one of the founders of the geriatrics program at what is now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He also supported cultural events and organizations in the Little Rock area. Eugene Towbin was born in New York City on September 18, 1918, to Russian Jewish immigrants Morris and Elena Towbin. He attended public …

Trees

When European explorers first came to Arkansas in the sixteenth century, they found the vast majority of the state covered by some type of forest or woodland. In general, the upland areas of the state were covered by short-leaf pine/oak/hickory forests in areas underlain by acidic rocks (primarily sandstone and chert) and by oak/hickory forests in areas underlain by neutral to calcareous rocks (primarily limestone and dolomite). Lowland areas of eastern and southern Arkansas were covered primarily by bottomland hardwood forests, with bald-cypress/water-tupelo swamps in the wettest areas. The Gulf Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas was covered by a mix of forest types, with loblolly and/or short-leaf pine dominant in many areas. Within these general forest types were hundreds of …

Trematodes

aka: Flatworms
aka: Flukes
Trematodes (flukes) include parasitic flatworms belonging to the phylum Platyhelminthes, class Trematoda, and subclasses Aspidogastrea (two orders, four families) and Digenea (ten orders, more than seventy-two families). The class numbers between 18,000 and 24,000 species; they are found primarily in a variety of animals, including humans and other vertebrates. Modern phylogenetic analysis reveals that the worms of class Monogenoidea (monogenetic flukes) are no longer included within the Trematoda and are more closely related to tapeworms. The modern mobility of human beings, combined with the international transportation of animals and foodstuffs that can be infected, means that diagnoses can occur well outside the areas where trematode species are endemic. However, while trematodes do occur in Arkansas, they do not pose a …

Trinity Hospital

Opened in 1924, Trinity Hospital of Little Rock (Pulaski County) operated as a fee-for-service institution until 1931. That year, the physicians of Trinity implemented one of the early health maintenance organizations (HMOs)—a form of insurance in which member physicians provide medical care to voluntary subscribers for a fixed fee—in the United States. The former Trinity Hospital building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 18, 1998. Trinity’s five founding physicians—Mahlon Dickerson Ogden Sr., Orange King Judd, Augustine Mathias Zell, James Isaac Scarborough, and Robert Booth Moore—began practicing medicine together before establishing the hospital. By 1916, Ogden, Judd, and Zell, who were also faculty members at the Arkansas Medical School—now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences …

Tropical Cyclones

aka: Tropical Storms and Depressions
As defined by the National Hurricane Center, a tropical cyclone is a “rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation.” Types of tropical cyclones are classified in terms of wind speed: A tropical depression is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 miles per hour (mph) or lower. A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. A major hurricane is tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or higher. Given the landlocked, central location of the state of Arkansas, it may …

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (also known as consumption) is a contagious, potentially fatal bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs. It is caused by the tubercle bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis), which was discovered by Robert Koch in 1882. By 1900, the disease was the second-leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by pneumonia. More than eighty percent of the U.S. population had been infected with the disease, although most people showed no symptoms. By the time a person showed symptoms, the disease was usually well advanced and had been spread to many others. The mortality rate for those with active infections was around eighty percent. In Arkansas, tuberculosis once affected one in sixty people and accounted for one out of every …

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge near Eureka Springs (Carroll County) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing lifetime homes for abandoned, abused, and neglected big cats and other endangered wildlife. With over 450 acres and more than 120 exotic cats, the refuge is one of the largest big cat sanctuaries in North America licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The sanctuary is rated a “Must See” attraction by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and is one of the most popular destinations in the Eureka Springs area. Don Jackson, a former employee of the Dallas Zoo, along with his wife, Hilda, and their daughter, Tanya Smith, founded the refuge in 1992. After a friend acquired a lion cub and realized …

Typhoid

Typhoid is among the earliest diseases reported in Arkansas and was a significant public health problem up through the early twentieth century. Though it became less common in the modern era, typhoid had a significant impact upon state health in times and places where poor sanitation was the norm. Typhoid, like cholera, is transmitted through the ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected individual; the spread of the disease is therefore greatly linked with a lack of proper sanitation. Victims experience high fevers, sweating, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and diarrhea. In most cases, the disease is not fatal, though fevers can last well over a month. Some individuals may become asymptomatic …

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District

Although technically a part of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has played a vital role in the development of civilian transportation infrastructure and water resources since Congress passed the first river and harbors bill in 1824 and charged the corps with maintaining navigational channels. Work on the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers received first priority, but as settlers moved farther west, attention soon focused on other navigable streams. Until 1916, Congress authorized only navigational improvements on rivers. Flood control only entered the corps’ mandate indirectly, as levees were considered navigational aids. However, as agricultural and transportation needs grew and the national economic importance of the lower Mississippi River Valley became evident, politicians found it easier …

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is Arkansas’s premier research hospital. UAMS provides the state with a solid foundation of higher learning and financial support. It has a long history of serving the public by providing the indigent with quality healthcare and is one of the largest employers in Arkansas, providing almost 9,000 jobs, many of them professional. To some extent, the history of UAMS is the history of medicine in Arkansas. The Arkansas State Medical Association, formed in 1870, pressed the legislature to allow the legal dissection of cadavers—a major milestone in medical research and education. After the legislature’s approval in 1873, the state’s first dissection, performed by Drs. Lenow and Vickery, …

University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center

The University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center (RREC), one of five research and extension centers in the University of Arkansas System’s statewide Division of Agriculture, is one of the best known and oldest rice research centers in the world. Arkansas produces almost half the rice grown in the United States, and the center has played a vital role in the success of the Arkansas rice industry. RREC is located nine miles east of Stuttgart (Arkansas County) on Highway 130. Originally called the Rice Branch Station, it was authorized by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1923, and work commenced on it in December 1926. The University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) made an earlier attempt at establishing a …

Vaccination

Vaccination artificially increases immunity to disease and contributes to the development of herd immunity, which is achieved when a sufficiently large percentage of immunized individuals  reduces the likelihood of disease transmission. Beginning in the nineteenth century, vaccination became an essential part of American public health policy. In Arkansas, starting with the introduction of school smallpox vaccination requirements in the late nineteenth century, vaccination became a vital feature of modern public health policy. The smallpox vaccine, discovered by British physician Edward Jenner in 1796, was the world’s first vaccine and remained the only human vaccine available until 1885. Following the introduction of the smallpox vaccine into the United States in 1800, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate smallpox vaccinations, requiring …

Venomous Snakes

Arkansas hosts about forty-five species and subspecies of snakes, and six (thirteen percent) are species that use venom to obtain food and to defend themselves. There are two families of venomous snakes in the state: Elapidae (a single elapid species, the Texas coral snake) and Viperidae (five species of pitvipers). All of Arkansas’s venomous snakes inject venom through fangs via muscular contraction of paired venom glands. Texas Coral Snake The Texas coral snake, Micrurus tener tener (formerly Micrurus fulvius tenere) is a tricolored, medium-sized (maximum length = 122 centimeters), secretive elapid snake that primarily occurs in the southern and southwestern part of the state. Verified records are available for only five counties of the state in the Gulf Coastal Plain, …

Vines

In 2016, a total of 436 kinds of woody plants were known to occur in the wild in Arkansas, comprising 419 species plus another seventeen varieties and subspecies. Of these, 185 can be considered trees, 189 are best described as shrubs, and sixty-two are woody vines. In some cases, it is difficult to draw a hard line between these categories, and various reference works differ in their criteria for each. For the purposes of this entry, however, each category is defined as follows: Trees are defined as perennial, often single- or relatively few–stemmed woody plants typically greater than five meters (sixteen feet) in height at maturity. Shrubs are defined as perennial, often multi-stemmed woody or semi-woody plants usually less than …

Watkins, Claibourne

Claibourne Watkins was one of three native Arkansan founders of the Medical Department of the Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Watkins was born on March 3, 1844, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the second son of George Claibourne Watkins and Mary Crease Watkins. His father was state attorney general and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had two brothers: Colonel Anderson Watkins, who was killed at Atlanta during the Civil War, and Captain Walton Watkins. Watkins was educated in a number of institutions, both private and public. The Civil War broke out just prior to his completing his undergraduate degree at St. Timothy’s Hall in Cantonsville, Maryland. A Southerner by birth and …

Weather in the Civil War

Drought, flooding, bone-chilling winters, and intense summer heat all had an impact on the civilian and military populations of Arkansas during the Civil War, affecting military campaigns, access to food and supplies, and health conditions throughout the state. The Civil War was fought just after the end of a meteorological period that climate historians often call the Little Ice Age. This era, lasting roughly from 1300 to 1850, featured frequent climatic shifts, with bitterly cold winters switching to periods of heavy spring flooding, often followed by mild winters and subsequent droughts. While the trend toward cooling that characterized the Little Ice Age had moved toward warming by the 1860s, Civil War Arkansas would be plagued by temperature fluctuations that could …

Welch, William Blackwell

In the late nineteenth century, William Blackwell Welch, a physician, was a leader in the movement to modernize medicine in Arkansas. A cofounder and first president of the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS), he later led the effort to establish a city hospital in Fayetteville (Washington County). W. B. Welch was born on December 9, 1828, in Scottsville, Kentucky, to Christopher A. Welch, who was a farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth Lyles Welch. In 1829, his family, which eventually included two brothers and three sisters, moved to Somerville, Alabama. He attended schools in Huntsville, Alabama, and studied medicine under his older brother. After graduating from Tennessee’s University of Nashville medical department (later merged with the Vanderbilt University Medical School) in 1849, …

Western Mosquitofish

aka: Gambusia
The western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) belongs to the order Cyprinodontiformes and family Poeciliidae. The name “mosquitofish” is appropriate for this fish because its diet sometimes consists of large numbers of mosquito larvae. The family contains about twenty-one genera and 160 species. There are eight other freshwater species of Gambusia similar in appearance in North America north of Mexico, including the eastern mosquitofish (G. holbrooki), Amistad gambusia (G. amistadensis), Big Bend gambusia (G. gaigei), largespring gambusia (G. geiseri), San Marcos gambusia (G. georgei), Clear Creek gambusia (G. heterochir), Pecos gambusia (G. nobilis), and blotched gambusia (G. senilis). Many of these Gambusia spp. are endemic and afforded protection, as populations are either listed as threatened or endangered. The similar western mosquitofish ranges …

White Nose Syndrome

White nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging disease caused by an exotic fungus of the Phylum Ascomycota, Class Dothideomycetes, and Family Pseudeurotiaceae. This fungus is native to Europe and perhaps portions of Asia and is specifically termed Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). Pd was unknown to science and undescribed until it was identified in 2008. Initially named Geomyces destructans, it was reclassified as P. destructans in 2013. The fungus was first found in Asia and Europe, where scientists believe it had existed for some time, as host bats do not appear to get as ill from the disease it causes. The strain of Pd that made it to North America is thought to have originated from some locality in Europe. There is …