Tag Archives: smallpox

The wonderful world of vaccines

Jayant Radhakrishnan Chicago, Illinois, United States   A patient with his whole body covered with smallpox lesions. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, photo by Barbara Rice. Epidemics and pandemics became an issue about 10,000 years ago when hunters and gatherers became farmers and began to live in communities. Smallpox was one of the first […]

Book Review of Casanova’s Guide to Medicine

Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, United Kingdom   Cover: Casanova’s Guide to Medicine. Lisetta Lovett. The eighteenth-century Italian Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) is today best remembered for legendary amorous pursuits that resulted in his name becoming a part of the English language. What has been forgotten, however, is that he was a remarkable and erudite polymath. He […]

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 […]

George Crile Sr., founder of the Cleveland Clinic

Portrait of G. W. Crile. Credit: Wellcome Collection. (CC BY 4.0) Early days George Crile was an exceptional man, a skilled surgeon who lived at a time when American medicine was emerging from its horse and buggy period and was embracing the principles of aseptic surgery and scientific medicine. Always full of new ideas, he was […]

Mortality data, risk probability, and the psychology of assent in the enlightenment smallpox debate

David Spadafora Pinehurst, North Carolina   Nicolas de Largillière, Portrait of Voltaire, ca. 1724. Source. The present health crisis is hardly the first to provoke significant controversy about preventing and treating widespread disease. Debate over epidemic-related data, its reliability, and its uses has a long history. So does concern about the psychological elements involved in […]

Abraham Lincoln’s smallpox

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   [Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad looking at an album of photographs.] Anthony Berger. 1864. Library of Congress. A brutal, bloody civil war had been tearing the United States of America apart for two years when President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863. Four months before […]

Book Review of Viruses, Plagues, and History by M. B. A. Oldstone

Arpan Banerjee Solihull, United Kingdom   Cover The first edition of Viruses, Plagues, and History was published to great acclaim twenty years ago and has now been updated to include the pandemics of the twenty-first century. These include the SARS, MERS, and Zika virus outbreaks, which have now been eclipsed by COVID-19. The early story […]

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 […]

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 […]