Tag Archives: Bubonic Plague

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 Lekic Phoenix, Arizona, United States   A Tale from the Decameron, by John William Waterhouse, 1916. Source. Licensed for Public Use. 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 […]

Oswaldo Cruz and the eradication of infectious diseases in Brazil

Robert Perlman Chicago, Illinois, United States   Photo of buildings on Rue Oswaldo-Cruz, a street in Paris named after the physician. Photo from Wikimedia by user CVB. CC BY-SA 4.0 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 […]

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   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, […]