…the yellow fever …is generated only in low close, and ill-cleansed parts of a town, I have supposed it practicable to prevent it’s generation by building our cities on a more open plan. take for instance the chequer board for a plan. let the black squares only be building squares, and the white ones be left open, in turf & trees. every square of houses will be surrounded by four open squares, & every house will front an open square. the atmosphere of such a town would be like that of the country, insusceptible of the miasmata which produce yellow fever. I have accordingly proposed that the enlargements of the city of New Orleans … shall be on this plan.
To Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney, February 8, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders plan with public health in mind.
This excerpt is a duplicate, from September 10, 2019, but with a twist, in light of the coronavirus.
Jefferson addressed the scourge of yellow fever, which ravaged coastal and tidewater cities in August and September each year. (In 1793, it killed 5,000 in Philadelphia, a city of 45-50,000.) He believed the cause was “miasma,” an unhealthy vapor arising in crowded, dirty cities, suffering from a shortage of fresh air.
Since New Orleans, also on the tidewater, had recently been added to the U.S., he proposed future expansions of that city be made on a checkerboard plan. All development would be on squares of one color only. All squares of the other color were to be left open. Thus, every populated block would have blocks of green space on all four sides. This would provide for less disease through social distancing, as a matter of urban design.
It would be nearly a century before the cause of yellow fever was discovered, not miasma but mosquitoes that thrived in the the swampy, tidewater environment.