By Dwight Swanson

DATE: 1942–1965
LENGTH: 28–67 minutes
CREATOR: Telford H. Work
CATEGORY: Research & Documentation, Silent, Color

As the world has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of virologists has never been more crucial. Virology is having a cultural moment, so it is opportune to stop and look back at the career of Telford H. Work, one of America’s premier virologists. Work’s collection of 83 films documenting his life’s work and travels is preserved in the National Library of Medicine collections, along with Work’s manuscript collection, which covers his education, career, hobbies, and achievements. Made between 1942 and 1988, the films were primarily shot on 16mm film, with video copies made later by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Although some of Work’s California wildlife films were donated to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Work’s widow Martine Jozan, MD, Ph.D. (also a virologist) donated most of his films to the NLM in a series of gifts to the institution between 1999 and 2006. His film, Reconnaissance for Yellow Fever in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Sudan, was previously the subject of a “Medicine on Screen” essay by Paul Theerman.

He trudged everywhere loaded with a tripod and 16mm Bolex cameras, documenting epidemiological events as they unfolded “as a journalist does in a notebook.” —Martine Jozan[1]


Two white men sitting outside in camping chairs with a camera on a tripod and sign to the right that reads, "Have Your Party Photographed / Yosemite National Park / Yosemite Park and Curry Co." with six sample photographs on the sign
Telford H. Work Papers
National Library of Medicine #101082665

In 1921, Telford Hindley Work was born in Selma, California, in the San Joaquin Valley, the son of the publisher of the local newspaper. He grew up in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles and in his younger years developed passionate interests in both birds and still photography. He worked for three summers in Yosemite National Park, photographing tourists among the redwood trees (and shooting photographs of eagles’ nests in his spare time), but he decided to switch to 16mm film because he felt moving pictures were better at capturing nature. Work’s first published article, “The Nest Life of the Turkey Vulture,” appeared in Condor magazine, and his early film In Search of the California Condor, shot in 1945 (and finished by Martine Jozan in 2008), document the hunt for condor nesting sites in the Sespe area of Southern California.[2] Work graduated with a degree in biology from Stanford University and stayed at Stanford from 1942 to 1945 for medical school. He documented this process in his film Maturation of a Medic (1942–44). While in medical school, he was asked by Nobel Prize-winning geneticist George Beadle to film one of his Neurospora colony experiments for a presentation that Work would later point to as a turning point in his use of film as scientific documentation.[3]

A photograph of forty to sixty people, containing predominantly men and only three women, dressed in lab coats outside the steps of a building
Telford H. Work Papers, National Library of Medicine #101082665

After graduation, Work joined the U.S. Navy, where he received training in surgery and war-related psychiatric disorders. His first assignment was at the Treasure Island Naval Station hospital in San Francisco Bay, which was a blow to his dreams of sailing the seas, but soon he was transferred to the USS Monongahela, an oil tanker that traveled between the Persian Gulf and Japan. It was during these travels that he first developed an interest in tropical medicine, which culminated in a year studying at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, followed by a master’s degree in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

An ID card in Arabic featuring a white male in a suit and tie
Telford H. Work Papers
National Library of Medicine #101082665

The forty-five years of Work’s professional life included an array of far-flung residencies, including epidemiological and virological field research on every continent. His early career included two years in Fiji studying the transmission of filariasis, an infectious tropical disease transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. In 1953, he served at the Naval Medical Research Unit in Cairo where he performed a serologic survey of West Nile Virus that isolated West Nile and Sindbis viruses in crows and pigeons and the Quaranfil virus in ticks and pigeon squabs. He began work at the Virus Research Center in Pune (then called Poona), India, in 1955, eventually becoming the center’s director. Work studied several epidemics during his time in India, including hepatitis, Jamshedpur Fever, and Kyasanur Forest Disease, which was the subject of his 1957 film Kyasanur Forest Disease.

A poster in Russian with a large sketch of a tick and text that warns people of ticks
Fevers, Ticks, and Caviar, 1965
National Library of Medicine #101477238

In 1962, he returned to the United States to work at the Rockefeller Laboratories, where he worked under Nobel Prize winner Max Theiler until being appointed by Congress to head the Center for Disease Control’s Virology section. At the CDC he oversaw the response to outbreaks of many diseases, including Venezuelan equine encephalitis, the Mahogany Hammock virus (a newly-discovered arbovirus in the Florida Everglades), Dengue in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, La Crosse virus in Ohio, and St. Louis Encephalitis in Florida, Texas, and Illinois (shown in his film St. Louis Encephalitis Epidemic: Houston and Illinois, 1964). He also studied the role of migrating birds in carrying arboviruses between the Americas. During this period, he traveled to the Soviet Union three times as part of missions organized by the microbiologist and virologist Mikhail Chumakov, as depicted in Space, Bears, Ticks, Tulips, and Fevers, Ticks, and Caviar (both 1965).

Work left the CDC in 1967 and returned to Los Angeles where he became a professor of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases at UCLA, continuing his research into the St. Louis encephalitis virus and other arboviruses in Southern California along with his second wife, Martine Jozan, whom he married in 1970. He also continued his international research with sabbatical years spent in Australia studying Murray Valley encephalitis and Argentina, where he helped establish a testing system for Dengue and yellow fever. He retired from UCLA in 1991 and passed away four years later after succumbing to complications of congestive heart failure.[4]

Martine Jozan remembers him as someone with a “kaleidoscopic mind” who enjoyed teaching as well as observing people and detailing their customs. “Telford was affectionately known to be a hard worker,” she recalls, “a perfectionist in the lab, tough and relentless in the field, where he was oblivious [to] insect bites, lack of sleep, nourishment, and time in general.”

Work, the Filmmaker

Work was not a professional filmmaker, but he used his films to show both his travel and his scientific fieldwork. His style sometimes resembles that of a talented home movie maker, but one who was filming his medical and virological work in addition to scenery and private events, while at other times his filmmaking shows the skill an experienced documentarian. While there are some brief scenic interludes scattered throughout, the films are primarily (in Martine Jozan’s words) “either a scientific documentation of medical outbreaks, or a scientific outlook on the biology of animals, or places.”

Browsing the collection’s catalog, the films’ titles (which were supplied by Work) are frequently simply the names of the locations where they were filmed (such as Lapland, Nepal, Antarctica), making them appear to be travel films, while others (Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, Rhesus Insulin Shock, and Tick-Borne Encephalitis: Eastern Europe, for example) sound primarily medical, often deceptively so, since Work’s films are nearly all a mixture of nature, clinical documentation, and fieldwork. Despite existing in a gray area between genres, “they were all documentaries,” writes Martine Jozan, “always done with rigor and foresight.”

The films were not intended to be private documents and were shown at universities, scientific meetings, and public screenings. He also presented films to his students at home, where Martine would have to feed dozens of students, “dynamic and hungry and always fascinated by his stories.” “I would barbecue two turkeys,” she wrote, “and they will have corn on the cob, potatoes, salad, and ice cream, plus beer and wine. After that, they had to digest through the movie.”

“My dad would tell the stories as the 16mm film clacked through the projector,” recalls his daughter Amrit Work Kendrick…

Various women washing and wringing clothes by hand at an outdoor communal washing area
Kyasanur Forest Disease, 1956
National Library of Medicine #101491206

“The other great thing about using film to teach was that he could make a disease cycle come alive. It was not just in a laboratory that the discoveries happened. He thought through the whole cycle: arthropod vector to mammal or bird to arthropod to human. He thought about the cultural practices which had people come into contact with the arthropod. What were they doing in the forest? What were they doing in the lake? How did that climate, e.g. arid tropics, provide an ideal condition for the interactions? And he developed trust with people to take samples of their blood when they often did not see the relationship between that and the science that could put their blood to use for finding the virus. These ecologies of disease were part of the stories he told, and I am sure that for some students it gave them a real “AHA!” moment.”

In the mid-1950s, Work presented two of his films in the National Audubon Society’s “Audubon Screen Tours” program series. Pharaohs and Fellahs (1946) and Monsoon Mosaic (1954) were both edited from the wildlife scenes he had filmed in Egypt and India and were screened with his live narration. “Through his lectures, Dr. Work shares his world-wide knowledge and absorbing color motion pictures of natural science in many lands,” read the tour’s promotional materials.

A white boy and girl dressed in red-colored clothes observing a wall of hieroglyphs
Pharaohs and Fellahs, 1946
National Library of Medicine #100938376

He was a technical perfectionist with his camera and his filmmaking. “I think the best present he received from me,” recalled Martine, “was a fisheye lens which I got directly from the Bolex factory in Switzerland.” She remembers a time when she was frustrated with him for making her repeat a scene twenty-three times so he could get it just right. “He would make you repeat the scene indefinitely. He wanted to have a special cloud, a special red car coming by; a special moment of sun.” Daughter Amrit recalls that “when we travelled through a multitude of airports, I usually carried a tripod and sometimes the movie camera. All of us in the family have had many laughs about being his beasts of burden, carrying the camera equipment through many countries.”

Trying to categorize Work as strictly a documentary or amateur filmmaker may ultimately not be very helpful, since it is the way that the clinical, the cultural, the personal, and the aesthetic elements are deeply intertwined that makes the films so interesting and complex. “Amateur” here is not a pejorative term, but rather a reflection of the fact that Work was being paid for his scientific research, not his filmmaking. Scientists and doctors (particularly surgeons) have documented their work before, but rarely in such complicated ways, and while it is simple and commonplace now to shoot long video recordings, to do so on 16mm film (and then to painstakingly edit the films) is a more unusual undertaking.

The Films

Considering the size of the collection, it would be impossible to cover many of Work’s films in detail, so the following are descriptions of some emblematic examples from throughout his career. His films have a style that remained consistent throughout his four and a half decades of filmmaking and reflect his considerable technical skill, his stylistic choices, and his scientific interests.

Maturation of a Medic (1942–1944)

A white man in a suit with a smoking pipe in his mouth
Maturation of a Medic, 1942–1944
National Library of Medicine #100897071
Handwritten intertitle with "Free Beer!" written in yellow and red
Maturation of a Medic, 1942–1944
National Library of Medicine #100897071

The earliest of Work’s films in the collection is not representative of his other films, which document his fieldwork and his travels. Maturation of a Medic, which he made between 1942 and 1944 while he was a student at Stanford University Medical school, is both more personal and more constructed. It has the feel of a well-made home movie (which is ultimately what it is), but unlike Work’s other films, it also includes handmade titles before almost every scene. These titles are whimsical (“Free Beer!” and “Hiler the clown comes to class”), but also informative, since they name the professors shown in the scenes, many of whom were prominent in their fields. For example, the Dr. Hall who “beats a weed with the boys” (1940s slang for smoking cigarettes, evidently) is Victor E. Hall, who would later become the editor of the Annual Review of Physiology. The Dr. Gray who “smokes a pipe” is Donald James Gray, editor of the textbook Anatomy: A Regional Study of Human Structure.[5]

White male students and instructor practice wrapping a cast around a fellow student subject's leg
Maturation of a Medic, 1942–1944
National Library of Medicine #100897071

Some sequences are useful in showing us what life was like for medical students in the 1940s, especially the aforementioned histology lab and leg cast training, but the film mostly shows what downtime was like for Work (there was a lot of beer and sports). The film is a lot of fun and shows off some of Work’s experiments with filmmaking techniques, such as the sequence introduced by the intertitle “Doc Colyear leads the ax yell,” which shows four dressed up skeletons led in a cheer by a human cheerleader (the skeletons mouths are manipulated by visible strings). The scene introduced by the intertitle “Dr. Field and a dizzy blond” shows biochemistry and physiology professor Dr. Jack Field spinning a (brunette) female student around in an examination chair until she gets dizzy. Finally, one untitled sequence—perhaps the most imaginative in any of Work’s films—is a double-exposed nightmare scene of two snakes terrorizing a sleeping man, presumably one of his classmates.

St. Louis Encephalitis Epidemic: Houston and Illinois, 1964

St. Louis Encephalitis Epidemic: Houston and Illinois, 1964 documents research conducted following a deadly viral outbreak and is an example of Work’s field research films. Slightly underexposed throughout, it is not one of his most technically assured films, and it is not readily evident how finished the film is or if Work showed it to any audiences beyond the lecture hall. Nevertheless, it is indicative of his style of filmmaking and his aims in using film as a research and teaching aid. It also chronicles a significant moment in his illustrious career.

The outbreaks of St. Louis Encephalitis in Houston and McLeansboro in Southern Illinois lasted from late June until early October 1964 and resulted in 243 confirmed cases and twenty-seven deaths in Houston and twenty-two cases and two deaths in Illinois. The Houston outbreak triggered tremendous community effort, involving health departments, fire departments, road and bridge crews, and private citizens.

A team of CDC scientists, led by Work, were sent to Illinois and Texas to collect mosquitos and wild birds to investigate the role of birds as hosts of the virus.[6]

Still frame of the morning sunrise over foggy swamplands
St. Louis Encephalitis Epidemic, 1964
National Library of Medicine #101683147

The eleven-and-a-half-minute film begins with long and ethereally beautiful shots of trees in the misty Illinois swamps. After a while, the team of virologists appears, removing nets that they used to catch birds and working at an outdoor table. As Martine Jozan explains, “one [of the] major elements of film making with Telford is the attention given to detailing our techniques in arbovirology, in this case, the bleeding of small birds at the jugular.” The film meticulously shows how blood samples were taken from the birds, diluted, and placed on ice until they could be brought to the lab and eventually shipped to the CDC in Atlanta. Additionally, small pieces of liver, spleen, and kidney were removed from some birds, and in Illinois small mammals (mice and rats, primarily) were also collected, along with mosquito samples.

An aerial shot featuring a populated region surrounded by agricultural areas
St. Louis Encephalitis Epidemic, 1964
National Library of Medicine #101683147

The third part of the film is a long sequence of aerial shots of McLeansboro and vicinity, taken from the passenger’s seat of a small airplane. Such scenes are common throughout Work’s films, and his aerial surveillance of landscapes and cities was an important tool in locating potential hotspots of mosquito-borne arboviruses. The article Work co-authored in the Journal of Medical Entomology on the McLeansboro outbreak includes a lengthy description of the area’s topography, and one can only imagine that Work’s live narration of the film would have added a considerable amount of information to the film.

Children in swimming clothes jump in a pool as a shirtless man with a spray blower turns it on the children
St. Louis Encephalitis Epidemic, 1964
National Library of Medicine #101683147

The film’s last sequence is atypical, comical, and more than a little jarring. Set in the Houston area (judging from the foliage), a man sprays a fog of pesticide around a backyard swimming pool where children are sitting poolside. The catalog record reads: “The man turns the spray on the children, who fall or jump into the pool as the spray hits them. The man continues spraying the chemical into the pool. A woman in a gingham dress comes outside, takes the sprayer, and turns it on the man.” This strange little scene jumps out at us now, but in fact it creatively documents one of the City of Houston’s mosquito-control techniques, where the fire department distributed free malathion for citizens to use at home, and local pest control companies “worked voluntarily, providing equipment and manpower, with the city providing the chemicals.”

Space, Bears, Ticks, Tulips and Fevers, Ticks and Caviar (1965)

The pair of films that are charmingly titled Space, Bears, Ticks, Tulips and Fevers, Ticks and Caviar are informal records of a month-long mission to explore and evaluate research into outbreaks of four hemorrhagic fevers across the Soviet Union in the 1960s.

A red and white sign with Vladimir Lenin's face and Russian text
Space, Bears, Ticks, Tulips, 1965
National Library of Medicine #101684315

Despite the Cold War conflicts in the political realm, there were exchange agreements in place between the U.S. and USSR that allowed for joint research in the health sciences. The Soviet group was organized by Mikhail Chumakov, the renowned Soviet microbiologist and virologist best known for his work on the mass production of the polio vaccine. The American contingent was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Telford Work represented the CDC and was joined by epidemiologists, virologists, and parasitologists from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Naval Medical Research Unit, and the National Institutes of Health.

“From years of association in arbovirology,” the mission’s report read, “members of the delegation had long been friends who were intimately acquainted with the interests and special experience of each. Most were familiar personally or through correspondence with many of the Soviet specialists and their work on [hemorrhagic fevers]. Thus, a high degree of unanimity within the group was achieved and the reception in the U.S.S.R. was especially cordial.” This collegiality is evident throughout the films, which include picnics, tourist visits, and a concluding feast, which is where the titular caviar appears.

Three bears in clothes and white circus clown collars riding on scooters in a circus ring
Space, Bears, Ticks, Tulips, 1965
National Library of Medicine #101684315

According to the final report, the delegation’s first activity was “to convince the Soviet authorities and scientific colleagues of the desire and need for immediate close contact with practicing physicians, local health officials, epidemiologists, veterinarians, ecologists, zoologists, and other field investigators and institutions.” As Work explained to Martine Jovan, when the Americans showed up in Moscow, they were put up in a posh hotel and treated to vodka, wine, and gourmet food. The early Moscow scenes include one meeting at the Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitides, but more screen time is devoted to group visits to tourist sites such as Red Square, the Monument to the Conquerors of Space, and performing circus bears.

After several days with nothing productive to do, the Americans told the Soviets that they didn’t come to be entertained and demanded to be taken out to do fieldwork, which they were then were allowed to do. The team traveled thousands of miles across the Soviet Union, including research stops in Siberia, Lake Baikal, the Ural Mountains, Volga Delta, Uzbekistan, and Astrakhan.

A group of school children gathered around the camera with curious and smiling faces
Fevers, Ticks, and Caviar, 1965
National Library of Medicine #101477238

The mission was not primarily clinically oriented, so the field research scenes are not as detailed as in other films, but there are scenes of collecting ticks and mosquitoes, a field laboratory tent, and tick-infested animals and birds. There are several scenes of milkmaids dressed all in white so that the ticks could be found easily on their clothing, and the treatment of cattle to eliminate the ticks responsible for the transmission of hemorrhagic fever. Most significantly, there is a long sequence of a local patient (likely a cowboy or shepherd) with extensive hemorrhages on his body. Most of the film, however, is a diverse mix of scenes of rural and village life, farm animals and wildlife (especially the birds that Work always sought out), and the group’s social activities.[7]

These Soviet mission films mark a midway point in Work’s collection, covering not only a scientific mission of great significance but also providing an informal anthropological record (certainly there were not many films of Uzbek cowboys shot by Americans in the 1960s). They even feature moments of pure whimsy, such as the aforementioned bears and mission members filmed in a funhouse mirror. No doubt some of the details about the films are lost to history, but the National Library of Medicine’s Telford H. Work Papers 1938–1990 collection has twelve folders of manuscript materials and photographs of the USSR missions, and Martine Jovan created an annotated shotlist in conjunction with delegation member Alexis Shelokov in her personal collection.

Kyasanur Forest Disease (1957)

A young Indian lady receiving an injection from an Indian man
Kyasanur Forest Disease, 1956
National Library of Medicine #101491206

The one film in the Telford Work collection that is superlative in every way is Kyasanur Forest Disease. In a large part, this status is due to its being the only film for which a narration by Work exists, but it is also cohesively crafted, with a strong narrative arc that documents possibly the most significant research breakthrough of Work’s storied career.

In 1957, Work was the Director of the Virus Research Center in Poona (now Pune), India, under the umbrella of the Rockefeller Foundation, which had begun establishing field laboratories worldwide that focused on arboviruses. Work was on the job when he and his team made the first documented discovery of a deadly new virus—to be called the Kyasanur Forest Disease—that had begun to spread in southern India.

“The disease is characterized by a sudden onset of fever and/or headache five to eight days after forest exposure. This is followed shortly by severe pains in the neck (meningismus), low back, and extremities, accompanied by severe prostration and marked inflammation of the scleral and palpebral conjunctivae. An important diagnostic sign in some patients is a papulo-vesicular eruption on the soft palate. Vomiting and diarrhea frequently occur two or three days after onset. Hemorrhagic signs such as bleeding gums, epistaxis, hemoptysis, hematemesis, melena and frank red blood in the stools appear at this time. The fever lasts from five to 14 days with an occasional febrile exacerbation in the third week. Convalescence is prolonged.”[8]

The film begins with Work recounting that he received a call on a Saturday morning in March 1957 from T. R. Rao, a Rockefeller Foundation entomologist who said he had just returned from Mysore where there were reports of monkeys dying in the forests. More alarmingly, people also were getting sick and dying of what local people called “the monkey disease.”[9]

Work and his colleague Harold Trapido filled Trapido’s car with cameras and supplies. “We were fairly well equipped,” Work wrote, “for as vague a venture, for preservation of tissues and organs, for possible virus isolation and pathology […], with instruments for monkey autopsy, glycerin and formaldehyde in containers, thermoses for refrigerated transport, vacutainers and needles for serological surveys….and an assortment of guns for collection of vertebrate specimens.…” They headed south to begin the research into what they initially suspected might be yellow fever but ultimately turned out to be Kyasanur Forest Disease, the second viral hemorrhagic disease, after yellow fever, that affected both primates and humans.[10]

A white male researcher with a hat pointing a stick towards a sign that reads "Kyasnoor State Forest" and foreign text underneath it located in the woods
Kyasanur Forest Disease, 1956
National Library of Medicine #101491206

The team visited the epidemic area of Sagar and Sorab Taluas of Shimoga District, Mysore, from March 26 to April 4. Culicine mosquitoes, Haemaphysalis ticks, and trombiculid mites were collected in the forest and villages of the area. People in the nearby villages were instructed that if they saw a sick or a dead monkey, they should  bring it to the field laboratory. This practice is illustrated by a sequence in the film where a medical assistant appears with a dead monkey in a basket after it had been found dragging itself across the forest floor. The medical team then took the corpse to the shade of a neighboring banyan tree to undertake a necropsy, which, along with the subsequent collection and processing of specimens, is shown in the film and explained in precise detail in the narration. Another scene of two men burying a monkey is clarified by Work’s narration when he notes that the monkey was being buried “where the dogs could not get to it and drag it through the village, exposing the people” to the virus. The amount of work accomplished in ten days was impressive: the patterns of transmission were identified and classified, and the groundwork was laid for future study. In the words of Martine Jozan…

“It was a feat of intuition, ingenuity, judicious expertise, field workmanship, dogged pursuit, supported by the efficient strategy and logistics implemented by Indian Public Health authorities, and by the extraordinary cooperation and understanding of the villagers.”

“A third of it was taken before we knew what we had,” Work later said of the film. “We were doing it to show our staff how you go about a field investigation of a suspect arbovirus epidemic.” What began as simple documentation became more complex when it emerged that the discovery of the Kyasanur Forest Disease virus was underway. Unlike the other films that portray the activities of a single trip, Work constructed the film to portray the investigation as it began in the field, continued in the laboratory in Poona, and then moved to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland for scenes of the production the vaccine. The film concludes with a return to India for scenes of local people having their blood drawn for laboratory testing.

A squirrel being handled by one person stretching its body length-wise and the another person drawing its blood into a syringe
Kyasanur Forest Disease, 1956
National Library of Medicine #101491206

Kyasanur Forest Disease makes clear how vital Telford Work’s narration is. Shots that appeared to be mere scenery are instead revealed to be loaded with meaning about the topography of a location and how it affected the insects, birds, and animals that transmitted the arboviruses. Likewise, sequences of local children and crowds show cultural practices that are connected to the epidemiological study.

The film, despite its finished feel, including optically-printed titles, was only ever shown in its silent form during Telford Work’s lifetime, and the narrated version only exists on video. Martine Jozan made a non-professional recording of his narration during a screening because she intuited its importance. The narration was significantly longer than the film “because Telford would always digress, stop the film and make additional comments,” so Jozan edited it to match the images, which remained in the original form. She first presented the finished film (under the title The Story of Kyasanur Forest Disease) at the November 2005 annual meeting of the Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, in Washington DC, with many of his old colleagues in the audience.[11]

A white male sitting behind a film projector with a group of black women and children sitting criss-crossed on the ground with mats, looking at a projection
Telford H. Work Papers, National Library of Medicine #101082665

Sadly, the fact that almost all of the original films are devoid of recorded narration limits their practical usefulness, especially since most of Work’s early colleagues who could add their commentaries have passed on. Work took extreme care to create the films, but his main concern was the screenings where he performed live narrations, and the conversational showings with his students and colleagues. The lack of narration makes it difficult for those of us not lucky enough to have attended one of Work’s screenings to judge the films as complete and cohesive since their meaning and enjoyment is so tied to his commentary. If recordings existed of the remaining films, the collection would probably be unsurpassed among American scientific film collections. Unfortunately, they don’t, so we are left to try to make the best use possible of the films. Luckily, Martine Jozan has taken it upon herself to maintain her late husband’s legacy. Most notably, she wrote and recorded scripts for Reconnaissance for Yellow Fever in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Sudan and In Search of the California Condor based on Work’s notes. It is also possible to delve into Work’s voluminous manuscripts and publications to recreate much of the information surrounding the films, but any such reconstruction would lack the immediacy of his voice, his recollections, and the intentions behind specific shots in the films and their broader context.

Six men, both young and old, do research outside on a porch. Three are shirtless, one is in a tank top, and the other two are wearing short sleeve button up shirts
Telford H. Work Papers
National Library of Medicine #101082665

Work was a skilled and nuanced filmmaker who developed a personal style as well as his own vocabulary of film tropes (such as close-ups of animal specimens, birds in the wild, aerial footage, groups of children, all of which appeared frequently throughout his films). When combined with supplementary documentation, there is a vast amount of valuable information to be found within his films, but as a creator of images, Work produced a tremendous number of fascinating scientific and cultural scenes that would easily be missed by researchers approaching his collection only expecting to find footage of his virological or epidemiological fieldwork. Even with only a few titles that can be considered complete, it cannot be overstated just how rich the scope of Work’s globetrotting filmmaking oeuvre is.

Dwight Swanson lives in Virginia, where he is currently working on developing the Museum of Sleep. Previously, he worked as an archivist for film and video collections in Alaska, Maine, Kentucky, and Washington, DC. He has lectured and written extensively on home movies and amateur film history and co-organized the 2010 Medical Film Symposium as well as other conferences on amateur and nontheatrical films. He was a co-founder of Home Movie Day and the Center for Home Movies, where he spearheaded and co-produced a number of curatorial home movie projects, including the DVD “Living Room Cinema,” the feature-length 35mm compilation film “Amateur Night, “Home Movie Day and Night: The 24-Hour Home Movie Marathon” and the screening series “Other Histories: Amateur Films on the National Film Registry” at the Museum of Modern Art.


[1] Martine Jozan Work provided many quotes used in this article through a series of emails and Zoom calls. She was extremely generous with her time and told many stories about her personal and professional life with Telford Work. Thanks also go to his daughter Amrit Work Kendrick, who provided anecdotes about her father’s films via email.

[2] Telford H. Work, interview by Frederick A. Murphy, “Workers in Tropical Medicine” series, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in conjunction with the National Library of Medicine, 10 August 1988. Consulted at [part 1 of 4].

[3] George Beadle and Edward Tatum shared a 1958 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their work on experiments on the bread mold Neurospora crassa, which showed that genes act by regulating distinct chemical events.

[4] Charles H. Calisher, “Telford H. Work—A Tribute,” Journal of the American Mosquito Association, 12, no. 3 (1996): 385–395.

[5] The archive at the Stanford Medical History Center holds copies of the Stanford University Bulletin, School of Medicine Annual Announcements, (1941–1942, 1942–1943, 1943–1944).

[6] See Robert H. Kokernot, Jack Hayes, Norman J. Rose, and Telford Work, “St. Louis Encephalitis in McLeansboro, Illinois, 1964,” Journal of Medical Entomology, 4, no. 3 (1967): 255–260.

Rexford D. Lord, Telford Work, Philip H. Coleman, and J. Gibson Johnston, Jr., “Virological Studies of Avian Hosts in the Houston Epidemic of St. Louis Encephalitis, 1964,” The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 22, no. 5 (1973): 662–671.

Rose Lee Bell, Bobbe Christensen, Alfonso Holguin, and O’Brian Smith, “St. Louis Encephalitis: A Comparison of Two Epidemics in Harris County, Texas,” American Journal of Public Health, 71, no. 2 (1981): 168–170.

[7] Jordi Casals, Harry Hoogstraal, Karl M. Johnson, Alexis Shelokov, Ned H. Wiebenga, and Telford Work, “A Current Appraisal of Hemorrhagic Fevers in the U.S.S.R.,” The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 15, no. 5 (1966): 751–764.

Jordi Casals, Brian E. Henderson, Harry Hoogstraal, Karl M. Johnson, and Alexis Shelokov, “A Review of Soviet Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers,” Journal of Infectious Diseases, 122, no. 5 (1970): 437–453.

[8] Telford H. Work, F. R. Roderiguez, and P. N. Bhatt, “Virological Epidemiology of the 1958 Epidemic of the Kyasanur Forest Disease,” American Journal of Public Health and the Nation’s Health, 49, no. 7 (1959): 869–874.

[9] Martine Jozan, “Kyasanur Forest Disease, A Tale from the Horse’s Mouth,” in Arboviruses: Notes from the Field (Springer, forthcoming).

[10] Telford H. Work and Harold Trapido, “Kyasanur Forest Disease: A New Virus in India, Summary of Preliminary Report of Investigations of the Virus Research Centre on an Epidemic Disease Affecting Forest Villagers and Wild Monkeys of Shimoga District, Mysore,” Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 11, no. 5 (1957): 341–42.

[11] “Final Program American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 54th Annual Meeting,” The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 73, no. 6 (2005): 117.


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