North America’s forgotten plagueBreaking News
tags: Salon, Canada, smallpox, 1862
A LEAN FIGURE cast in bronze kneels beside a child, a tiny lancet in his hand poised to strike at the girl’s left shoulder. Another patient waits her turn, upper arm revealed. The memorial, outside the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, celebrates the global conquest of smallpox in 1980, a milestone that belongs on any list of reasons to be cheerful: Variola major gorged on our species for thousands of years, blazing a trail of hideous pustules that disfigured victims’ bodies and faces and wiped out communities. Children and the elderly were especially vulnerable, and those not felled by the disease were sometimes blinded by it.
The Geneva memorial honours the physician as warrior in the eradication of smallpox. On a Pfizer campus in Pennsylvania, a twin statue tells a different story, positioning Big Pharma as the hero. Neither monument, however, recalls the many casualties of smallpox, and this says a great deal about what we choose to remember.
One of the last major outbreaks in Canada began in the spring of 1862 when a ship from San Francisco arrived in Victoria and patient zero stepped ashore. Throughout the summer and autumn, smallpox raced north and east, up the coast and inland through canyons of tightly packed settlements that were perfectly suited to its appetite....
comments powered by Disqus
- The Most Controversial Psych Study Is Repeated — Same Weird Result
- A new book explores the stunning revelation that Hemingway spied for the USSR
- A President’s Restless Corpse May Be on the Move Again in Tennessee
- How China and the U.S. might collide — or not
- Major Viking Age Archaeological Find Discovered in Denmark
- The New York Times celebrates biographer Richard Holmes
- Historians are in demand! (On cruise ships)
- Douglas Brinkley says there’s a "smell of treason in the air"
- Mary Maples Dunn, Advocate of Women’s Colleges and President of Smith, Dies at 85
- Gil Troy says Jews and Israelis are the victims of a “Hate Swarm”