Tag Archives: Bubonic Plague

COVID-19 and the Black Death

Colleen Donnelly  Denver, Colorado, United States   A street during the plague in London with a death cart and mourners. Colour wood engraving by E. Evans. Wellcome Library no. 6918i. Source During the fourteenth century waves of the bubonic plague washed across Europe. Doomsday books of the age described an apocalypse that wiped out one-quarter […]

Darling of Panama

Enrique Chaves-Carballo Kansas City, Kansas, United States   Samuel Taylor Darling at age 51, portrait by Underwwod & Underwood, 1923. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Samuel Taylor Darling, widely considered as the foremost American tropical parasitologist and pathologist of his time, was born in Harrison, New Jersey on April 6, 1872. […]

Mary Niles and the Canton rats

Edward McSweegan Kinston, Rhode Island, United States   Doctor Mary West Niles, Wikipedia  Bubonic plague arrived in Honolulu in December 1899. A month later it had spread to San Francisco, where the infection caused a series of deadly outbreaks until 1907.1 But for decades before plague reached the American west coast, it had burned through […]

Live chicken for treating plague buboes

Detail of Zug der Soldaten und Marketenderinnen by Franz Brun. 1559. Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. When the bubonic plague struck Europe after 1347, it left the medical profession helpless. Unable to cure or contain the disease, doctors focused largely on dealing with […]

Animality revisited in times of the coronavirus: A fable

Frank Gonzalez-Crussi Chicago, Illinois, United States   Figure 1. Jacob Savery (1566-1603). Orpheus among the animals. From Wikimedia. Imagine, as painters have done, representatives of animal species congregated in an assembly (Fig. 1). A man comes to address this motley crowd in this way: “You guys [he purposefully adopts this condescending language] have recently wronged […]

Plagues and prejudice

Anne Jacobson Oak Park, Illinois, United States   Figure 1. Honolulu Chinatown fire of 1900. Hawaii State Archives.  It was a calm, clear January morning on the gritty streets of paradise. Honolulu, the capital of the newly-annexed U.S. territory of Hawaii, was ushering out a century of upheaval that had included the arrival of explorers, […]

The bubonic plague in Eyam

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   William Mompesson In medicine most instances of outstanding acts of heroic human courage relate to individual patients or to their attendant doctors, nurses, and caregivers. Here is a unique example of the collective self-sacrifice of a tiny rural community, which probably saved the lives of thousands. The year […]

Epidemics from plague to Coronavirus

Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome. From the Internet Archive’s copy of Eugen Hollände Die Karikatur und Satire in der Medizin: Medico-Kunsthistorische Studie von Professor Dr. Eugen Holländer. circa 1656. Throughout history humanity has faced many epidemics and pandemics that caused […]

Fleas in art and medicine

Fleas cause itching and red bite marks on their hosts but are nowadays mainly a nuisance. This was not always so. In the Middle Ages they spread bubonic plague from rats to man, causing the Black Death epidemics that killed 25 million people—up to 50% of the Europe’s population. They also transmit the agents causing […]

The Plague of Ashdod, by Nicholas Poussin

The Plague of Ashdod, Poussin’s famous painting of 1630, is based on the Old Testament account of an epidemic affecting the Philistines after they had captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites and moved it to their coastal city of Ashdod. According to Samuel 1:5, the Lord first destroyed the statue of their […]