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Barbara Cooper: Rutgers Institute for High School Teachers

Friday, November 15, 2019, 09:00am - 02:30pm

Disease in World History: Cholera in London, Yellow Fever in the Panama Canal, and Malaria in Liberia

November 15, 2019, 9am-2:30pm

Barbara Cooper, Professor of History, Rutgers University

Biomedicine is one of the triumphs of western technology. The conventional history of global health begins with the systematic sleuthing of physician and amateur epidemiologist John Snow as he sought to stop a cholera epidemic in London in the early decades of the 19th century. Another major breakthrough accompanied the engineering miracle of the Panama canal—the “conquest” of Yellow Fever. These successes contributed to a sense that western technology could tame the entire globe. However not all diseases have yielded to biomedical advances. Why do some public health efforts succeed where others fail? Why, after decades of struggle, does malaria continue to plague much of Africa? This seminar will explore the technological, epidemiological, political, and social factors that shape the history of public health by focusing on three case studies: cholera in 19th century London, Yellow Fever at the Panama Canal at the turn of the 20th century, and Malaria in Liberia in the post-World War II period.

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