The detective work that faced parasitologist Tom Schwan of Rocky
Mountain Laboratories had nothing to do with fleas, ticks or even
science. Yet, resolving the mystery is among the most satisfying
feats of his career: The family of Dr. Ralph Parker now possesses
his 1910-era college scrapbook.
|Robert Parker, son of eminent RML scientist
Dr. Ralph Parker, visits Hamilton for the first time in 42
years and reclaims some family history.
Parker is recognized as the first director of RML, a branch of
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases located
in Hamilton, Mont. Parker held the post from 1928 until his death
in 1949; during his career he co-developed the first vaccine against
Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
After Parker's death, colleague William Jellison of RML acquired
some of Parker's personal belongings. When Jellison died in 1995,
Schwan found himself inheriting Parker's scrapbook.
"I've been trying to locate family members ever since," said Schwan,
who is an amateur historian with a fascination for early-day RML
He was thrilled in early April when he heard that Parker's granddaughter
had contacted RML unexpectedly to arrange a visit from Kansas with
her father Robert, 80, who grew up on the RML campus in the 1920s
and '30s. Robert hadn't visited Hamilton in 42 years and wanted
to see his childhood home, which is now an RML administrative building
on the National Register of Historic Places.
Schwan immediately telephoned the family to tell them about the
scrapbook, which he presented to them during their visit on Apr.
"Did you used to live in Colorado?" Schwan asked Robert Parker
during the visit, still trying to piece together his sleuthing. "That's
where I was last able to locate you."
"I'm thrilled they're here to accept this," Schwan said. "Dr.
Parker collected everything in this scrapbook from his days in
Massachusetts and it should be with his family."