Skip to main contentU.S. National Library of MedicineU.S. National Library of Medicine

Profiles in Science
Pinterest badge Follow Profiles in Science on Pinterest!

The Fred L. Soper Papers

[Excerpt from Fred Soper's diary] pdf (521,487 Bytes) transcript of pdf
[Excerpt from Fred Soper's diary]
These diary entries feature Soper's account of the first hookworm surveys in the towns of Tigipio and Cabo, Brazil.
Number of Image Pages:
6 (521,487 Bytes)
Date Supplied:
15-26 May 1920
Soper, Fred L.
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Exhibit Category:
Learning the Ropes: Hookworm Disease in South America, 1920-1927
Box Number:
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Physical Condition:
Series: Diaries, 1919-1975
Folder: Diary, December 1919-December 1920
(Dr. Adalberto Cavalcanti
Medico do Hospital de Alienados
Especialista em doencas internos e nervosas, syphilis e tuberculose)
Consultorio - Rr - da Independencia
50 1 degrees Andar. Tele. 831 - De 2 as 5
(Residencia - Rua Gervasio Pires 337
Advertisement in Journal do Recife, and since the boat for Pinha leaves at 11 am and returns at 3, it must break in upon his office hours!
May 15. We meet the Coronel at the Saude Publica - Dr. Gouveia gives temporary pass - shows us many things of interest regarding peste, etc. We check out material from the Saude Publica which is sent to Tigipio. Fail to tip a man - he would not take 10$000! Later asked for it.
May 16. We are located at the Pensao Landy - a place run by the Baroness Landy. (To be described later.) Drs. Hydrick, Vargas, and Soper go to Coqueiral (Tigipio) and see our five day home. It is a 5 room cottage which will serve very nicely. Tomorrow we start to work.
May 17. Due to mistake in schedule, we find Dr. Hydrick already has our place more or less in shape for business. One front room is for the microscopists and the other is to be used for registration, demonstration and blood tests. Treatments will be given in the rear room. The large central room makes a fair dormitory for the men.
Before noon some of the containers given out yesterday came in and the Inspecao do Estado de Pernambuco was really begun. Before we returned to Recife, 25 examinations had been made with a 100% hookworm infection and a 95% infection of Ascaris - with many Trichuris. The lecture has not been dated as yet but we hope for a cinema performance. Our food is furnished at an Italian Restaurant (?) and is very good although they do insist on our drinking chianti (Italian wine).
This restaurant is also the headquarters for the local "Bicho." "Bicho" literally "The Beast" is a Lottery on the Federal Lottery. The instinct to gamble is highly developed among the Brazilians among all classes and the Bicho is one of the popular expressions of this instinct. One of the first impressions one gets of Brazil, is the Vendor of Lottery Tickets. This individual ranges from the well-dressed, prosperous intelligent keeper of Ticket Booths, to the most abject beggars one can imagine. It is by some considered especially lucky to purchase one's Lottery tickets from a blind beggar others never win except when the tickets have been bought from a hunchback. The superstitious rules of the game are many and so a greenhorn like myself, a rank outsider, would have no chance whatever - On the other hand there is the "beginner's luck" proverbial in all games of chance. I still have a chance to win a lottery on "Beginner's luck"
To the unsophisticated stranger who pays any mark of attention to a vendor of tickets, is due much trouble. Even to say "Nao" to their suggestion to buy is inviting trouble. One ragged urchin followed my bonde for blocks and when I left the car he followed at my heels from one business house to another for a matter of 30 minutes. Finally I eluded him at the National City Bank of New York. However the Bicho is a more modest concern and has no venders on the street - no money is spent printing forms - the total expense to the proprietor is the salary of this clerk. For this he charges his patrons 10% of their winnings -- hence the proprietor of the Bicho has a 10% margin of safety and profit. The Bicho is founded on the Federal Lottery in which the numbers run up to 10000 - Each 1000 is given the name of a Bicho, or beast, as for example, the Lion, The Serpent, etc. One goes into the forest and sees a beautiful snake, makes all haste to the nearest "Bicho" and places his money on the Serpent to win. Since the serpent has one chance in 10 of winning if he wins, he wins 10 times the amount he has placed.
He may place money on the thousands, hundreds, tens or units - thus making the Bicho adjustable to the poorest purse. Again one drinks too much cachaca and becomes afflicted with dreams of snakes - that is, has a nightmare. Then 1/2 goes on the serpent and 1/2 on the cachaca.
The only advertisement the "Bicho" needs is a small sign, with room for four numbers. This may be blackboard, or even a frame with removable letters but more often is simply a cardboard hung at the window with the winning number of the previous week. Everyone knows then it is the "Bicho"
The work at Tigipio started off slow - 25 the first day but 100% positive. Much Trichocephalus, one Hymenolepis and one Balantidium coli. The soil on the river bottom is very sandy and even the higher places are composed of a very porous red, sandy clay, which appears dry 20 minutes after a heavy shower. Many latrines are found here but all are either deserted or in horrible condition. One latrine visited contained a large pit with water, but the floor of the latrine was apparently a happy home for hookworm larvae. Maybe not however as too high a concentration of feces is fatal to the larvae.
May 18. Business some better. Last evening Dr. Gouveia, Dr. Hydrick and myself went in his car to Coqueiral but found no conference.
Tonight Dr. Vargas gave his first lantern show at the post.
We visit at a school and-
May 19. do more propaganda - Only those propagandized come for containers.
May 20. Dr. Hydrick and I see house at Olinda -
May 21. Dr. Hydrick via Gelria for Rio. Lecture at Cinema in Tigipio - 600 present
May 22. Finish at Tigipio - Total examined 489.
Baggage misses train at Tigipio but we get to Cabo all right.
Cabo is one hours ride from Recife - the country is very low and sandy with many swamps or rather, lagoons.
Sugar is the big crop here; today for the first time I saw an overseer on horseback "driving" some 40 or 50 laborers at work cleaning the canefields of other foliage. The scene vividly recalled the days of real slavery. The city of Cabo is said to have 2000 people and the municipio 5000.
At the station we are met by a very fine intelligent young man in khaki who tells us that he represents the prefect and is entirely at our service.
We find the house reserved for us is the Camara of Cabo (the town hall of the county, ie. The Court House in USA)
One large room is suitable for registration, blood examinations and demonstrations by day and lantern lectures by night. 4 other rooms are here at our disposal - there is a very good place for the microscopist and all in all the place could not be better arranged if made to order. We will sleep here and eat at the Hotel.
This town is the home of the governor of the state and consequently all has been arranged. We expect to spend absolutely nothing here except time, chemopodium, salts, and toothpicks.
At 7:15 p.m. our first lecture started - we arrived at 4:45 p.m. - 72 people were officially present but others came and left all during the performance. Many latinas have been distributed and business should be good. We are surely 3 days ahead of our schedule at Tigipio - the professor of the school, the telegrapher and others are present. Definite count is made but still there is no pep used in giving out containers. We get to bed tired and weary at 11 o'clock.
Sunday a. m. May 23. I let the boys sleep till 6 a.m. We get up - I sweep the lecture room and everyone helps get started to work at 7:30 - we go to coffee - I have a monstrous bowl of hot milk and go back to the posto - business is here - at 8 a.m. I take 2 pictures (on the same film) showing 40 to 50 people in front of our place who were there for containers.
I finish our sign and now "Posto de Prophylaxis" meets the eye of all who come up the hill and all who go down the hill and that is everyone in the city. The principal church of the place is only 3 or 4 doors away. This is said to be a very religious place having Presbyterians, Baptists, Anabaptists etc. About 9 o'clock I went down to the market to get a few photos. Some man came to me because he knew I was a doctor and the propaganda started, (3 months in Brazil and spreading a line already), too bad but it must be done. Pull down an eyelid, show to the admiring and curious crowd saying, "Sem sangue - muita branco," compare fingernails with my own very florid ones saying, "Branco -- vermelho" at the same time pointing to the victims and my own nails side by side. Then "Term doenca. Vae en cima ao Posto de Prophylaxia Rural en Camara de Cabo." Quando? Agora. And by that time 3 other deentes (sick people) are reaching for me and calling attention to either their own ills or those of their children.
If one would understand the success of a Religion founded on medicine come to a tropical country where the ease with which Christ did propaganda work is easily understood. He worked among the poor, made no charge for any treatments, (the most frequent question I met this morning, was "quanto custa para cada pessoa") and made remarkable cures. Also He worked in almost a tropical country and everyone was sick. Here I had the crowd so thick on the sidewalk that the proprietor of the shop (barber shop) came out and asked me to move on. The which I did.
Before lunch some of the girls who had seen me came to the post for their pictures. Of course I had to take them.
At 2 p.m. 95 tins have come to the Laboratory.
May 24, 1920. Dr. Gouveia de Barros attends the Conferencia in Cabo. We drive out from Recife in his car - 36 kilometers - and except for the last 1/2 kilometer and the first one kilometer (in Recife) the road was very good and the night air delightful. The moon is so bright in this climate - I regret Jule is not along. I figured we would drive out in a government car but we used the doctor's private one. Women are seldom seen in government cars - the
Foundation in Rio pays 250$ per year rather than use a government car and permit the wife and family of the doctor to ride in it.
Following Dr. Vargas' talk in the cinema - Dr. Gouveia spoke to the people. He said many nice things about the Commissao Rockefeller and said the government expected to contract with the Commission for much work in the state of Pernambuco. About 574 people were present.
Maio 25. Dr. Julio Bezerro calls at the post - he talks understandable English. He is a small man and appears rather keen but does not impress one as being of the type of his father, the governor. He knows the south of Brazil, Switzerland, France and England. He invites me to breakfast with him tomorrow.
Maio 26. Cabo
Take almoco with the governor's son - Julio. I am driven to the fazenda in state - a colored coachman, a team of ratty mules and a ratty muddy coach. The road was poor, but the trip short. The home of the Governor is a palatial place, but the governor lives in Recife, so the huge place is untenanted except for Julio and a French mechanic who is superintending alterations of machinery in the usina - sugar mill. This is entirely a sugar locality and all the people think, live, and eat is sugar. And mostly they drink the strong rum made from the waste sugar. Julio is buying all the sugar cane possible now at 35$000 per ton -- gambling in futures pure and simple.
After breakfast we visit the usina and then back to Cabo.
Julio attends our conference and also our farewell at the Coronels.
Metadata Last Modified Date:
Linked Data:
RDF/XML     JSON     JSON-LD     N3/Turtle     N-Triples