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Mason V. Hargett Papers 1932-1986 (bulk 1938-1946)
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Biography

Biographical/Historical Note

Mason V. Hargett contributed greatly to the field of tropical medicine with his work on the yellow fever vaccine, first with the Rockefeller Foundation in Brazil and then at the USPHS Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana. Hargett's research facilitated the introduction of a yellow fever vaccine produced without human serum, thereby reducing the possibility of contamination that had existed before. Hargett designed, as well as headed, the Yellow Fever Unit at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in the 1940s. He also worked with the US Public Health Service as a quarantine officer in Miami and Japan.

Mason V. Hargett was born in Farnhamville, Iowa, on April 24, 1904. He received his bachelor's degree from Asbury College in Kentucky in 1925, and his medical degree from Northwestern University in 1929. In 1929, Hargett opened his own practice in Yale, Oklahoma, but could not sustain his practice during the Depression. In 1931, Hargett joined the U.S. Public Health Service, and was stationed at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

The U.S. Public Health Service was concerned about the possible spread of yellow fever to the United States from South America, and therefore, Hargett was sent to the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from January to June of 1937. He received his D.T.M. & H. from the Examining Board in England (Royal College of Physicians of London and the Royal College of Surgeons of England) in 1937.

Because of his training at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Hargett served as quarantine officer in Miami before he was sent to the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was a guest student from October 1938 to November 1939, during which time he studied malaria, yellow fever and administration under Dr. Fred L. Soper, the director of the International Health Division in Brazil.

After returning to the United States, Hargett headed the unit established at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton, Montana to make yellow fever vaccine for U.S. Public Health Service. In 1942, the Yellow Fever Unit at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory took over production of the yellow fever vaccine for the U.S. military during World War II.

In 1946, Hargett was sent to Japan to serve at the quarantine officer for the U.S. Army, and to represent the military in the foreign quarantine operation. Due to the massive movement of people following the end of the war, the quarantine operation tried to prevent the introduction of diseases, particularly cholera and typhus, into Japan. Hargett returned to Hamilton, Montana in November 1946 after five months in Japan.

Hargett served at the Leprosarium in Louisiana for a short time before being transferred in 1947 to the Indian Medical Service in Billings, Montana, where he was Regional Medical Director for over two years.

When the Department of the Interior changed its policy concerning Regional Directors in 1950 (no longer privileging Commissioned Officers over Civil Service doctors), Hargett left the Indian Medical Service. He moved to Atlanta, where he worked with the hospital construction program. Hargett was in Atlanta from 1950 to 1952, then in San Francisco from 1952 until 1964, when he retired and moved back to Hamilton, Montana.