In recognition that diseases are manifestations of their environment, this session seeks papers that place medieval diseases within their environmental context. Just as a seed must be placed in good soil to grow, infectious disease requires a permissive environment to develop into an epidemic (or epizootic) and an ideal environment to bloom into a pandemic or panzootic. I am open to all manner of studies and disciplines that address these issues.
Examples of acceptable topics:
Historic impacts of epidemics and/or epizootics
Endemic disease in medieval environments
Environmental causes of disease such as malnutrition or industrial pollution related disease
Health effects of human-animal interactions
Archaeological assessments of human health and disease
Landscape alterations intended to improve human or animal health
Ecology of the built environment
Abstracts of no more than 300 words and the Participant Information Form should be sent to Michelle Ziegler at ZieglerM@slu.edu by September 15. Pre-submission queries are welcome.
Welcome to the 66th edition of On Giant’s Shoulders, the blog carnival for the history of science, medicine and technology! I wish I could pull a bunch of holiday posts out of Santa’s bag, but the blogosphere does not appear to be in the festive mood yet. An anniversary and commemoration mood seems to be prevailing as the end of the year approaches, so for historians this should be a gift!
One thing has become clear from looking at the sources of posts this month is that history of medicine and science has indeed become contagious, no longer limited to just typical blogs. We have traditional bloggers writing feature stories in newspapers and journals, large group blogs, the rise of library, archive and society ‘blogs’, and guest bloggers being invited to give context on blogs, some not normally about history. There are a growing number of options to blog outside of traditional one author blogs.
Marking history in our times
Most of this issue is, of course, on medieval and early modern medicine, but I can’t let a couple of important modern history anniversaries pass unremarked. The H word celebrated 30th anniversary of PCR with two guest posts: the secret life of the laboratory by Charolette Sleigh and bringing meaning to technology by Jean-Baptiste Gouyon. This month one of the great genetics pioneers of the late 20th century, Frederick Sanger passed away. This two time Nobel prize winner made the sequencing of DNA and protein possible. Without Sanger sequencing there is no telling how long the genetic revolution would have been delayed. Originally done with radioactivity, here is a modern fluorescent Sanger for those of you unfamiliar with what sequencing looks like. Festive, isn’t it?
Part of all the remembrances of the JFK assassination , Circulating Now had a post on JFK’s career long support of the foundation and development of the National Library of Medicine. The New York Academy of Medicine featured a post on the WHO’s AIDS posters from the 1987-1995, soon after recognition of the pandemic.
Pathogens and Pandemics
Although not strictly a blog post, the Royal Society has posted podcasts of the November 2013 Ancient DNA conference, including the session by Johannes Kraus whose lab sequenced the East Smithfield plague isolates. While on the topic of plague podcasts, another series of four Ellen McArthur lectures by Bruce Campbell on “The Great Transition: Climate, Disease and Society in the 13th and 14th Centuries”came online earlier in the year but I don’t think has been part of his carnival yet. Listening to these lectures is vital for anyone interested in plague history, environmental or economic history.
Caroline Rance of The Quack Doctor has been featuring a post a day for ADvent on historic ads for medical devices and quack medications. The first ad is for a health jolting chair, you can follow the posts daily from there.
Explore Your Archive featured the strange case of Dr James Barry, a 19th century Inspector General of military hospitals, and the secret revealed at his death.
Jacob Darwin Hamblin hosted the E-Environment roundtable to review two books, Sam White’s The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (effects of the ‘little ice age’ on the Ottomans) and Alan Mikhail’s Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt. E-Environment roundtable issues are open access.
Seb Falk of Astrolabs and Stuff wrote up a seminar summary by Hascok Chan’s on his controversial keynote address from this summer’s International Congress of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine on “Putting Science back into History of Science”.
The January edition of On Giant’s Shoulders will be hosted by Jennifer Evans (@HistorianJen) of Early Modern Medicineon January 16, 2014. Submissions are due to Jennifer directly or to The Renaissance Mathematicus (@rmathematicus) no later than Jan. 15.
After my last post critiquing Cohn’s scientific interpretations, I think its only fair to write about all the historians who are actively engaging and incorporating scientific findings in their work. I’ve communicated with a lot of historians who are following the scientific work on the plague and I know there will be some articles and books coming out over the next year or so that incorporate some of new genetics in historical analysis.
So for science folks, these two articles give us some insight into how historians see plague genetics unfolding. Little concentrates on the early drama over plague genetics. Bolton covers that material also, but also looks at newer information on transmission dynamics too.
Little, L. K. (2011). Plague Historians in Lab Coats. Past & Present, 213(1), 267–290. doi:10.1093/pastj/gtr014
Bolton, J.L. ‘Looking for Yersinia pestis: scientists, historians and the Black Death’ in L. Clark and C. Rawcliffe (eds.), Society in an Age of Plague, The Fifteenth Century XII (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2013), publication date 15 August 2013, ISBN 9781843838753. (In the same book/issue as Cohn’s paper discussed in the last post.)
Overall, I am really optimistic about the interdisciplinary work that can be done on the plague.