“The Sesse Islands in Lake Victoria are a specimen of Nature’s jewelry. But, exquisite as is their scenery, death is over them. This is a land of silence. The voice of the child is unheard, the chant of Baganda women, so full of cadence, comes no more over the waters. The bark hut villages that for centuries sheltered the finest people in mind and body are rotting ruins. Why this desolation of all that is human? Because of a sleeping death. What causes the sleep that kills? A fly [the tsetse fly] that breeds the tiniest murderer known to the world.”

Scientific American, August 1913

More gems from Scientific American’s first 175 years can be found on our anniversary archive page.