Plague: A Story of Science, Rivalry, and the Scourge That Won’t Go Away by Edward Marriott

Synopsis:Plague. The very word carries an unholy resonance. No other disease can claim its apocalyptic power: it can lie dormant for centuries, only to resurface with nation-killing force. Here, with the high drama of an adventure tale, Edward Marriott unravels the story of this lethal disease: the historic battle to identify its source, the devastating effects of pandemics, and the prospects for new outbreaks. Marriott begins the trail in Hong Kong in the summer of 1894, when a plague diagnosis brought to the island two top scientists – Alexandre Yersin, a maverick Frenchman, and his Japanese rival, Shibasaburo Kitasato. Marriott interweaves the narrative of their fierce competition with vivid scenes of the scourge’s persistence. California in 1900; Surat, India, in 1994; and New York City some time in the future.

A masterly account of medical and human history, Plague is at once an instructive warning and a chilling read.
Comments:This was an interesting, informative and chilling read. Plague. The word sends chills down my spine. No other word in the English language has the same ability to inspire fear as this one – not even words like war, torture, murder, holocaust, can inspire the same sense of dread as that one word. Plague.

Yet how many of us truly know the history of this disease? Sure, we’ve all heard of the famous ‘Black Plague’ outbreak that wiped out something like a third of Europe, but what of it’s more recent history? Did you know, for example, that there had been outbreaks in America? Or that there is not a single continent on Earth not affected by plague (except, perhaps Antarctica)? Or that there had been a plague outbreak (in Surat, India) as recently as 1994?

I, for one, learned a lot from this well-written history of the search for this elusive creature – plague. Both informative and enjoyable to read, this book takes us through the history of this disease and the bitter rivalry that led, eventually, to the discovery of both cause and carrier. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in science, medicine or history, or simply with a taste for the macabre.

Categories: Impressions

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3 replies


  1. books I read in 2008 « Rafferty's Rules
  2. The Great Plague: The Story of London’s Most Deadly Year by A. Lloyd Moote & Dorothy C. Moote « Rafferty's Rules
  3. The Black Death by Philip Ziegler « Rafferty's Rules

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