Tag Archives: infectious disease

Giovanni Boccaccio on pandemics past and present

Constance Markey Chicago, IL   The plague of Florence, 1348; an episode in the Decameron by Boccaccio. Etching by L. Sabatelli the elder after G. Boccaccio. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)) Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) is universally celebrated for his masterpiece The Decameron, an appealing assemblage of one hundred loosely connected novellas, […]

Botulism: from pork sausages to Botox

Justinus Kerner in old age, taken a few years before his death. circa 1860. Taken by Friedrich Brandseph. Scanned from Klaus Günzel: Die deutschen Romantiker. Via Wikimedia. Of the various kinds of food poisoning that afflict mankind, botulism is the most dangerous. It has likely occurred for many centuries, as shown by sundry dietary laws […]

Carlos J. Finlay: the mosquito man

Enrique Chaves-Carballo Kansas City, Kansas, United States   Portrait Dr. Carlos J. Finlay. From Images History of Medicine (IHM), National Library of Medicine. Carlos Juan Finlay was born in Puerto Príncipe (now Camagüey), Cuba, on December 3, 1833. He was sent to Europe to complete his secondary education but was forced to return to Cuba […]

Baruch Blumberg who discovered the hepatitis B virus

A NASA portrait of Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1999. Image credit: NASA/Tom Trower Baruch Samuel Blumberg, like Barack Obama, was called Barry by his friends. In 1976 he received the Nobel Prize for saving millions of lives by discovering the cause of hepatitis B, a plague that had afflicted mankind since time immemorial. Born in […]

The global journey of variolation

Mariel Tishma Chicago, Illinois, United States   A human hand with smallpox pustules. Colored etching by W.T. Strutt. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Humanity has eliminated only one infectious disease—smallpox. Smallpox is a very old disease and efforts to prevent it are almost as old. They included a technique called variolation, also […]

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. […]

The scourge, the scientist, and the swindle

Anne Jacobson Oak Park, Illinois, United States   Alice Augusta Ball, 1915. (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain) “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as […]

Maxwell Finland: expert in infectious diseases

Martin Duke Mystic, Connecticut, United States   Maxwell Finland in the senior yearbook from the Harvard Class Album 1922. (Credit: HUD 322.04 page 181. Harvard University Archives.) Maxwell Finland (1902-1987) was a remarkable physician, teacher, and researcher in infectious diseases. His life began during the turmoil of the pogroms in Tsarist Russia and ended in […]

Use of masks to control the spread of infection: more than a century of confusion

Jayant Radhakrishnan Darien, Illinois, United States   The above photograph is from the archives of the Cook County Hospital when it closed. It was taken in the surgical amphitheater in the main building. The year is not known. The photograph demonstrates an operation being carried out by masked and gowned surgeons and the scrub nurse […]