Lewis Wendell Hackett

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Lewis Wendell Hackett’s career with the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) spanned thirty-five years and seventeen countries.

Born in California in 1884, Hackett was an academically gifted student who earned a B.A. and an M.D. from Harvard University in 1905 and 1912, as well as Harvard’s first Ph.D. in Public Health in 1914. Soon after graduation he began his career with the RF, a career distinguished by his important leadership and contributions in the fields of malaria, hookworm and public health.

Hackett’s first position with the RF brought him to Panama, where as Field Director for the International Health Division (IHD) he conducted hookworm control demonstrations across Central America. In 1916 he moved to RF offices in Brazil, where he once again directed activities and conducted demonstrations in hookworm and malaria, control, as well as in the practice of rural sanitation. While in Brazil, he helped to establish a nursing school and contributed significantly to the development of public health nursing in that country. 

In 1924 Hackett was reassigned to Italy, where he led a malaria survey. He effectively organized public health demonstrations in malaria control across Italy, but by 1928 he was developing a deeper interest in the biology of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Along with IHD staff, he directed field labs in Italy, Greece, Spain and Bulgaria, and the work of these labs was instrumental in identifying several species of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, a discovery that would affect populations suffering from malaria across the world.

Hackett continued to work with the IHD in the field of malaria control and began malaria eradication efforts in Egypt, but work in North Africa had to be abandoned due to the encroaching war. In 1940 he returned to South America, where he directed RF offices and helped to institute public health measures in Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.  In 1945 he was named Associate Director of the IHD.

Lewis Wendell Hackett retired from the RF in 1950 and went on to serve as an editor at the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, as a Visiting Professor of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and as an advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO). He died in Oakland, California, in 1962, at the age of 77. The papers of Lewis Wendell Hackett, including speeches, correspondence, reports and photographs, can be accessed by researchers at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC). His officer's diaries are digitized and can be accessed through the RAC's online collections.