I never enjoyed my history classes, as they were filled with memorizing names (mostly men's), obscure dates and battle fields. However, I do remember learning about the bubonic plague and cholera in my public health classes (which was interesting to me), and these are only two of the twelve diseases that are discussed in the book, "Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World" (by Irwin Sherman).
According to the U.S. News and World Report interview with the author, he "describes how bacteria, parasites, and viruses have swept through cities and devastated populations, felled great leaders and thinkers, and in their wake transformed politics, public health, and economies".
Here is are a few snipets from the above website and book:
"1. Smallpox: It's the only infectious disease that has been eradicated through vaccination. The medical science of vaccination was a direct result of the devastating effects of smallpox. Essentially, studies of immunity and vaccines emerged from studies of smallpox. That gives hope that other diseases, too, will be eradicated by similar means.
2. Influenza: This disease is thought to have influenced World War I by killing soldiers and taxing the military healthcare system. It is also mentioned that President Wilson's negotiations during the Treaty of Versailles were affected by the influenza infection he had at the time".
...and if this sounds intriguing to you, there are ten more diseases (tuberculosis, syphilis, AIDS, bubonic plague, cholera, malaria, yellow fever, hemophilia, porphyria, and the potato blight) discussed in this book, with their ramifications on how they altered the course of history. Fascinating!
Do you think any diseases were left out of this list?
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