Category Archives: History of science or medicine

Monuments to catastrophe

THE history of humanity is punctuated with purges. Large numbers of people have died in short periods of time as a result of wars, disease and natural disasters. Once these have passed, it falls to the survivors to count the dead. This is never easy, but it is harder for some kinds of disaster than for others. It may be hardest of all for a pandemic, as Ole Benedictow acknowledged in his 2005 article, ‘The Black Death: The Greatest Catastrophe Ever’…

This article first appeared in History Today on 23 March 2017. To continue reading, click here.

 

 

 

 

How crowds affect your health

GLASTONBURY 1997, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2008: what do they have in common? All three were the backdrop to outbreaks of communicable disease, and so of interest to doctors working in mass gathering medicine. The goal of this relatively young field is to address the specific health problems associated with mass events, but two British psychologists now claim that this can only be done effectively by understanding the psychological transformation that people undergo when they join a crowd…

This article first appeared in the BPS Research Digest on 4 January 2017. To continue reading, click here:

Joining a crowd transforms us psychologically, with serious health implications

Image: AlGraChe/Flickr

 

Spheres of influenza

the-economist-logoWHEN it comes to infectious diseases, Ebola and Zika have hogged the headlines of late. But the rise of exotic pathogens does not make more familiar ones less dangerous. Epidemiologists are therefore keeping a close eye on two versions of influenza, known as H5N1 and H7N9 (the “H” and the “N” refer to proteins in the viral coat, and the numbers to particular versions of those proteins). Either of these, they fear, might become pandemic…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 15 November 2016. To continue reading, click here.

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History lessons

ns_logo“MY NAME is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” So run the famous lines of Percy Shelley’s poem about Ramses the Great, a pharaoh who ruled Egypt’s New Kingdom in the 13th century BC, when it was the world’s most sophisticated society. But the poem’s theme is the transience of glory. It describes the ruins of a giant statue to Ramses that lie scattered in the desert: “Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away…”

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 15 October 2016. To continue reading, click here.

Seshat, ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom
Seshat, ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom