An illustration of four people standing and wearing masks

Choosing Love over Eugenics

Some writers see contagion as a metaphor for community—proof that we exist within an interdependent network and not as autonomous disconnected islands.
A man wearing a surgical mask and gloves threading his needle with suture before an operation.

The Surgeons Who Said No to Gloves

In the late 1800s, doctors in German-speaking countries were having trouble agreeing on one simple thing: whether to wear gloves during surgery.
The ship María Pita departing from Coruña in 1803, engraved by Francisco Pérez

How Children Took the Smallpox Vaccine around the World

In 1803, nearly two dozen orphan boys endured long voyages and physical discomfort to transport the smallpox vaccine to Spain's colonies.
Plague column in Vienna, Austria

How to Memorialize a Plague

Vienna's baroque Plague Column, completed in 1693, gave thanks for the survival of a city.
La Malaria by Auguste Hebert

Cracking the Malaria Mystery—from Marshes to Mosquirix

It took science centuries to understand malaria. Now we’re waiting to see how the 2019 vaccine pilot works.
Photograph showing Waldemar Mordecai Wolffe Haffkine (1860-1930), Bacteriologist with the Government of India, inoculating a community against cholera in Calcutta, March 1894.

Anti-Asian Racism in the 1817 Cholera Pandemic

We should learn from, instead of repeating, the racist assignations of the past.
A person driving a Mercedes

In Epidemics, the Wealthy Have Always Fled

"The poor, having no choice, remained.”
A cup of coffee with a red circle and a line struck through it

When Coffee Cargo Was Quarantined

In the 1800s, sick passengers weren’t blamed for disease epidemics—their baggage and cargo was.
William Cheselden giving an anatomical demonstration to six spectators in the anatomy-theatre of the Barber-Surgeons' Company, London, c. 1730

The Study of Human Anatomy and the Corpses of Vienna

For cultural and geographical reasons, the city was a great place to find bodies to dissect. But there was also the matter of one well-connected doctor.
The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz

The Fear of Being Buried Alive (and How to Prevent It)

Pliny the Elder remarked: “Such is the condition of humanity, and so uncertain is men’s judgment, that they cannot determine even death itself.”