There are few insects as disliked as the mosquito. When people wonder about the purpose of annoying bugs, the mosquito is the first one whose existence they question. (As a point of interest: “Rab Judah said in Rab’s name: Of all that the Holy One, blessed is He, created in His world, He did not create a single thing without purpose…[He created] the [crushed] mosquito [ to serve as a remedy] for a serpent’s [bite] – Talmud Shabbat 77b).

In the early 20th century, as waves of Aliyah began to settle the Land of Israel, the mosquitoes and malaria were particularly problematic. The rate of infection (90% of workers) was significant enough that it was questionable whether agricultural settlement could succeed. Compounding the problem was the fact that the most promising farmland was a swampy breeding ground for mosquitoes. 

The man credited with making the farmland safe was Dr. Israel Kligler (1888-1944). Born in Galicia and raised in New York, Kligler held a Ph.D from Columbia University in Bacteriology, Pathology and Biochemistry when he fulfilled his lifelong dream and moved to Israel in 1921.

Shortly after arriving in Israel, Kligler directed the Malaria Research Unit of the Joint Distribution Committee. He studied the land, the swamps, the mosquitoes and the remedies already being tried–handouts of Quinine and planting Eucalyptus trees, neither of which successfully resolved the problem. Kligler helped set up the Malaria Research Institute and began to study the mosquito larvae. He introduced larvae-eating Gamusian fish to the water, sprayed insecticide into large pockets of larvae and developed new drainage techniques, such as changing the direction of the water flow in irrigation channels.

After Kligler successfully remedied the malarial mosquito problem in Israel, he went on to build  a successful research career, working at both Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University. 

August 20 in World Mosquito Day.

“Anopheles Stephensi” by Jim Gathany –
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #5814.

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