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Clara Maass

AKA Clara Louise Maass

Born: 28-Jun-1876
Birthplace: East Orange, NJ
Died: 24-Aug-1901
Location of death: Havana, Cuba
Cause of death: Yellow Fever
Remains: Buried, Fairmount Cemetery, Newark, NJ

Gender: Female
Religion: Lutheran
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Activist, Victim

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Human experiments with yellow fever

Military service: US Army (Medical Department, 1898-1901)

Clara Maass was an Army nurse during the Spanish-American War, who served at army camps in Florida, Georgia, the Philippines, and finally Cuba. There she volunteered as a subject in medical experiments conducted at Las Animas Hospital in Havana. Walter Reed's research had already shown that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquito bites, but the tests at Las Animas were intended to show that a mild case of yellow fever would give a patient immunity to the disease. Maass and other volunteers allowed themselves to be bitten by an Aedes aegypti mosquito known to be carrying yellow fever. As expected, with prompt medical care Maass suffered relatively minor symptoms, and after recovering she moved on to the second phase of the experiment. To establish that she had developed immunity to the disease, she was exposed to several more infected-mosquito bites from March to August 1901. Unexpectedly, Maass became ill four days after her seventh controlled mosquito bite, and the illness could not be cured.

Maas is often but incorrectly cited as the only person to die in these experiments. She was one of three people who died, but as the only American her death received the lion's share of the media attention. Shortly thereafter, the US War Department ordered an end to human experiments involving American subjects at Las Animas Hospital. Decades later, Leopoldine Guinther, superintendent of nurses at Newark Memorial Hospital (formerly Newark German Hospital), where Maass had been trained and taught, publicized her story, and the hospital was re-named Clara Maass Medical Center in 1952.

Father: Robert Maass (grocer/hatter)
Mother: Hedwig Maass

    High School: Northfield School, Livingston, NJ (dropped out)
    University: Newark German Hospital School of Nursing, Newark, NJ (1895)
    Teacher: Nursing, Newark German Hospital School of Nursing, Newark, NJ (1895-98)

    Dutch Ancestry Paternal
    German Ancestry

Appears on postage stamps:
Cuba, Scott #462 (2, depicting Maass in front of hospital, issued 24-Aug-1951)
USA, Scott #1699 (13, depicting Maass in nurse's uniform, issued 18-Aug-1976)

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