Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Bubonic Plague

  • Medicine and the Jews in the Middle Ages

    Shelley GrachChicago, Illinois, United States In the Middle Ages, fear and superstition often stood in the path of helping the sick, as maladies were believed to result from the sins of the afflicted. These roadblocks were compounded by inherited hostility towards Jews, impeding Jewish participation in scientific education at educational institutions. The University of Montpellier…

  • Samuel Pepys: Stones and groans

    I polished up that handle so carefullyThat now I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navy– HMS Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan Introduction Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) did not polish doorknobs to rise in the world. He was well-connected and soon after graduation from Cambridge University entered the employment of his powerful cousin, Edward Montagu. This cousin…

  • The Pearl of the Orient: the persistence of Dr. Wu Lien-teh

    Ku Ezriq Raif bin Ku Besry Perlis, Malaysia   Dr. Wu Lien-teh 1935. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain. The work of Wu Lien-teh in controlling the 1910 Manchurian Plague has been celebrated as “a milestone in the systematic practice of epidemiological principles in disease control.” The cloth face mask he developed, “the principal means of personal protection”1…

  • Boccaccio’s Decameron in the world of the coronavirus pandemic

    Mateja LekicPhoenix, Arizona, United States Giovanni Boccaccio wrote the Decameron after the carnage of the bubonic plague in the late 1340s.1 Caused by the highly virulent bacterium Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague, or Black Death, killed an estimated one quarter of the population of Europe and two-thirds of those living in Florence.2,3 What once occurred in…

  • Oswaldo Cruz and the eradication of infectious diseases in Brazil

    Robert PerlmanChicago, Illinois, United States In 1899, an epidemic of bubonic plague caused a crisis in the Brazilian port city of Santos. Ship captains were angry that their boats had to remain in quarantine and so denied that the disease was plague. They and others argued that this new disease was not as deadly as…

  • Girolamo Cardano: Renaissance physician and polymath

    Born at Pavia in the duchy of Lombardy in 1501, Girolamo Cardano practiced medicine for fifty years but is remembered chiefly as a polymath. He composed 200 works, made important contributions to mathematics and algebra, invented several mechanical devices (some still in use today), and published extensive philosophical tracts and commentaries on the ancient philosophers…

  • COVID-19 and the Black Death

    Colleen Donnelly Denver, Colorado, United States 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 to one-third of the population. Today, we are far better at tracking both the numbers of people impacted and the spread of disease, depending on the…

  • Darling of Panama

    Enrique Chaves-Carballo Kansas City, Kansas, United States 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. He studied medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Baltimore, graduating in 1903 at the top of his class and…

  • 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

    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 the buboes. They bled their patients and applied cups to prevent the dissemination of the poisonous contents, often choosing sites near to where the buboes were situated. They…