Tag Archives: plague

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, […]

COVID-19 and Malta’s Black Plague epidemic of 1813

Victor Grech Pembroke, Malta   Fisherman. Painting by Victor Grech Malta in the British Empire In the nineteenth century Malta had a population of around 91,000 people and was governed by the British Empire. Despite its small size and absence of natural resources, the island was an important Mediterranean crossroads, with a vital natural harbor […]

Ladies in red: medical and metaphorical reflections on La Traviata

Milad Matta Gregory Rutecki Lyndhurst, Ohio, United States   Illustration by Jason Malmberg. “. . . phthisic beauty[’s] . . . most famous operatic embodiment was Violetta Valery . . .This physical type became not only fashionable but sexy . . . When a society does not understand—and cannot control—a disease, ground seems to open […]

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 […]

How conflict and bureaucracy delayed the elimination of yellow fever

Edward McSweegan Kingston, Rhode Island, United States   Army Surgeon General George Miller Sternberg, Wikimedia The Golden Age of Bacteriology (1876-1906) saw the emergence of techniques to cultivate bacterial pathogens and develop vaccines and anti-toxin therapies against them. The new bacteriologists rapidly identified the agents causing anthrax, gonorrhea, typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, tetanus, diphtheria, plague, and […]

Philadelphia’s plague

Hayat El Boukari Tetouan, Morocco Four plates showing the development of yellow fever. From the title: Observations sur la fièvre jaune, faites à Cadix, en 1819 / par MM. Pariset et Mazet. Authors: Etienne Pariset (1770-1847) and André Mazet (1793-1821). Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0. A narrative of the proceedings of the black people, […]

Preparing for a zombie apocalypse

Larry Kerr Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States   Pieter Bruegel the Elder created this apocalyptic view of a world in 1562 unprepared to handle a pandemic. The painting has been in Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1827. What can we learn from a Zombie Apocalypse? The first thing to learn? It could happen. Anyone who […]

Birth trays in the Italian Renaissance

Rachel Baker   Recurring outbreaks of plague and their resulting demographic catastrophes largely contributed to the Renaissance emphasis on family and procreation. After the initial epidemic in 1348, the plague returned more than a dozen times over the next two centuries. Childbirth was seen as a vital measure to combat plague’s devastation, and a woman’s […]

Giorgione and the plague

Il Tramonto, National Gallery, London   Giorgione’s painting Il Tramonto (The Sunset) is as mysterious as most of the other details of the artist’s life. Painted around 1506, it was lost and rediscovered in 1933 in a villa near Venice, in very poor condition, damaged, and with holes in it. Over time it underwent three […]