Originally posted by Wikipedia:
Rocky Mountain spotted fever was first recognized in 1896 in the Snake River Valley of Idaho and was originally called “black measles” because of its characteristic rash. This was a dreaded and frequently fatal disease that affected hundreds of people in this area.
By the early 1900s, the recognized geographic distribution of this disease grew to include parts of the United States as far north as Washington State, Idaho, and Montana and as far south as California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Howard T. Ricketts was the first to establish the identity of the infectious organism that causes this disease. He and others characterized the basic epidemiological features of the disease, including the role of tick vectors. Their studies found that Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii.
This species is supported in nature by a complex cycle involving ticks and mammals. Human beings are considered to be accidental hosts, and they are not involved in the natural transmission cycle of this pathogen.
Dr. Ricketts died of typhus (another rickettsial disease) in Mexico in 1910, shortly after completing his remarkable studies on Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Prior to 1922, Doctors McCray and McClintic both died while doing research on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Also did an aide of Noguchi's at the Rockefeller Institute. McCalla and Brerton also did early research into Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Research began in 1922 in western Montana, in the Bitterroot Valley around Hamilton, Montana, after the Governor's daughter and his son-in-law died of the fever. Past Assistant Surgeon R.R. Spencer of the Hygienic Laboratory of the U.S. Public Health Service was ordered to the region, and he led a research team at an abandoned schoolhouse through about 1924.
Spencer's crucial day was on May 19, 1924, when he put a large dose of mashed wood ticks — from lot 2351B — and some weak carbolic acid into his arm by injection. This vaccine worked.
[That was lucky.]
Spencer was assisted by R. R. Parker, Bill Gettinger, Henry Cowan, Henry Greenup, Elmer Greenup, Gene Hughes, Salsbury, and Kerlee, et al. Gettinger, Cowan and Kerlee all died of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever during the research efforts.
Much of the early research was conducted at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), which is the source of the name of the condition.