George Albert Soper may not be a name that is on the tip of your tongue. And yet, he is someone you probably know of, in at least a vicarious way.
George was the son of George and Georginanna Soper, born in 1870 and raised in New York City. Brother of Georgianna, husband of Eloise and graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Still nothing, huh?
We were surprised that when Mr. Soper passed away in 1948, his obituary referred to him as a sanitary engineer, thinking that this was a relatively modern and verbose moniker for a garbage man. Or perhaps for a garbage man with a degree.
How about if we tell you that he was, “the Nation’s leading sanitary engineer”? Probably no closer to that light bulb going on. Mr. Soper also attended Columbia University. He wrote books on the topics of ventilation in the subways, the danger of pestilence in Europe, and explored the best methods of street cleaning.
Okay, maybe this will help.
He was an epidemiologist and, as such, he was brought in to investigate the spread of a particularly virulent form of Salmonella which had stymied New York health officials in the early 1900s. As it was known at the time, this disease was only spread by food or water contaminated by sewage. These cases broke out in homes whose water and food supply were above suspicion, such as Oyster Bay, Sands Point or Park Avenue.
After 54 cases, the common denominator was found by Mr. Soper, hired as an investigator by one of the stricken families. One Mary Mallon was a cook who worked in various homes of rich families. She spread her bacteria wherever she went, even though she herself never displayed symptoms. George discovered that someone could carry this disease and manufacture the bacteria, without getting sick from it. Mary, apparently, had been carrying it from birth.
Yes. Typhoid Mary.
George was also a resident of Hampton Bays! He lived with his son, George Jr. and, according to his obituary, they lived on Cedar Cove, Hampton Bays. We are not familiar with that name and conclude that it was perhaps the name of the Soper home or a title that has disappeared in time. Or perhaps one of our devoted readers can enlighten us. Our trusty newspapers state that George Jr. owned property as described:
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal!