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Resort to commemorate Vietnam’s beloved Yersin

A central Vietnamese province is seeking investment to build a mountain resort to bear the name of the famed physician and bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin.

The resort is slated to be set atop Hon Ba, a 1,500m high mountain in Khanh Hoa province, some 55 km away from Vietnam’s central beach town of Nha Trang.

It was at Hon Ba that Yersin opened a station in 1915, where he tried to acclimatize the quinine tree (Cinchona ledgeriana), which was imported from the Andes in South America. The tree produced the first known effective remedy for preventing and treating malaria, a disease which is still prevalent in Southeast Asia to this day.

The resort plans to offer spa, mud bath and meditation therapies as well as recreational services including a casino. A museum to commemorate Yersin will also be built.

The provincial authorities have invested almost VND100 billion (US$6,000,000) to build a road to the mountain top.

Yersin was born to a French family in 1863 in Lavaux, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. Along with Shibasaburo Kitasato, he is remembered as the co-discoverer of the bacillus responsible for the bubonic plague, which was re-named Yersinia pestis in his honor.

He arrived in Vietnam in 1890 when the country was a French colony. In 1895, he installed a small laboratory in Nha Trang to manufacture the world’s first anti-plague serum, which he had developed earlier in Paris.

He is well remembered in Vietnam, where he was affectionately called Ong Nam (Mr. Nam/Fifth) by the people.

Following the country's independence, streets named in his honor kept their designation, and his tomb in Suoi Dau was graced by a pagoda where rites are performed in his worship.

Yersin's house in Nha Trang is now a museum, and the epitaph on his tombstone describes him as a "Benefactor and humanist, venerated by the Vietnamese people". In Hanoi, a French Lycée has his name.

In 1934 he was nominated honorary director of Pasteur Institute and a member of its Board of Administration. He died during World War II at his home in Nha Trang, in 1943.

Source: Tuoi Tre – Translated by The Vinh

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