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Cholera: The Biography

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Cholera is a frightening disease. Victims are wracked by stomach cramps and suffer intense diarrhoea. Death can come within hours. Though now seeming a distant memory in Europe, which suffered several epidemics in the 19th century before John Snow identified the link with water, cholera is still a serious threat in many parts of the world--Zimbabwe is a recent example. Sn Cholera is a frightening disease. Victims are wracked by stomach cramps and suffer intense diarrhoea. Death can come within hours. Though now seeming a distant memory in Europe, which suffered several epidemics in the 19th century before John Snow identified the link with water, cholera is still a serious threat in many parts of the world--Zimbabwe is a recent example. Snow's discovery was one of the great breakthroughs of epidemiology and a wonderful story from the history of science. Later came the discovery of the culprit organism--Cholera vibrio--understanding of its life cycle, and the development of a vaccine. But the problem of cholera has not disappeared. This book tells the story of cholera, and looks at both the medical success in the West, and the different attitudes to the disease in countries in which it is prevalent as opposed to those in which it put in a temporary appearance. Unlike other books on cholera, which focus on the experience of particular countries, Christopher Hamlin's account draws together the experiences from various countries, both those that were colonies and those that were not. Cholera: the biography is part of the Oxford series, Biographies of Diseases, edited by William and Helen Bynum. In each individual volume an expert historian or clinician tells the story of a particular disease or condition throughout history - not only in terms of growing medical understanding of its nature and cure, but also shifting social and cultural attitudes, and changes in the meaning of the name of the disease itself.


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Cholera is a frightening disease. Victims are wracked by stomach cramps and suffer intense diarrhoea. Death can come within hours. Though now seeming a distant memory in Europe, which suffered several epidemics in the 19th century before John Snow identified the link with water, cholera is still a serious threat in many parts of the world--Zimbabwe is a recent example. Sn Cholera is a frightening disease. Victims are wracked by stomach cramps and suffer intense diarrhoea. Death can come within hours. Though now seeming a distant memory in Europe, which suffered several epidemics in the 19th century before John Snow identified the link with water, cholera is still a serious threat in many parts of the world--Zimbabwe is a recent example. Snow's discovery was one of the great breakthroughs of epidemiology and a wonderful story from the history of science. Later came the discovery of the culprit organism--Cholera vibrio--understanding of its life cycle, and the development of a vaccine. But the problem of cholera has not disappeared. This book tells the story of cholera, and looks at both the medical success in the West, and the different attitudes to the disease in countries in which it is prevalent as opposed to those in which it put in a temporary appearance. Unlike other books on cholera, which focus on the experience of particular countries, Christopher Hamlin's account draws together the experiences from various countries, both those that were colonies and those that were not. Cholera: the biography is part of the Oxford series, Biographies of Diseases, edited by William and Helen Bynum. In each individual volume an expert historian or clinician tells the story of a particular disease or condition throughout history - not only in terms of growing medical understanding of its nature and cure, but also shifting social and cultural attitudes, and changes in the meaning of the name of the disease itself.

45 review for Cholera: The Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Candy Wood

    I suppose the microbe that causes cholera is a living organism and thus warrants a “biography,” but I’m not sure the term can apply when the subject is really millions of micro-organisms, constantly adapting over time. Still, Hamlin’s book is readable for nonspecialists, informative, and thought-provoking, considering changing attitudes toward the disease and ethical questions as well as history of science. The scope is global, often pointing to the interference of national rivalries in the effo I suppose the microbe that causes cholera is a living organism and thus warrants a “biography,” but I’m not sure the term can apply when the subject is really millions of micro-organisms, constantly adapting over time. Still, Hamlin’s book is readable for nonspecialists, informative, and thought-provoking, considering changing attitudes toward the disease and ethical questions as well as history of science. The scope is global, often pointing to the interference of national rivalries in the efforts to eliminate the disease. One chapter deliberately shifts from a highly technical account of laboratory work identifying many different strains of the microbe to fanciful metaphors that emphasize the questions that still remain, especially why cholera outbreaks still occur when modern science has the means to prevent them. Though the scientific terms are explained in context, a glossary provides a convenient reference, and Hamlin describes further reading for those who wish to know more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sohvi

    Comprehensive look to the subject. However, personally I would have hoped for more scientific notations, but this is probably meant for quite popular audience. Which is fine, but I really could've used the notations myself. The tone of the book was also quite popular. Which, again, doesn't make it necessarily bad, but I'm not sure if this was my cup of tea. And despite of the rather popular tone, I still found this a bit difficult to follow. At times it was hard to distinguish whether Hamlin was Comprehensive look to the subject. However, personally I would have hoped for more scientific notations, but this is probably meant for quite popular audience. Which is fine, but I really could've used the notations myself. The tone of the book was also quite popular. Which, again, doesn't make it necessarily bad, but I'm not sure if this was my cup of tea. And despite of the rather popular tone, I still found this a bit difficult to follow. At times it was hard to distinguish whether Hamlin was speaking about his own views or about the views shown in his source material. For me, this was the biggest problem. There is clearly a lot of effort gone to making the research, but the presentation of that research could be better.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I read this book for a combination of business and pleasure. From an academic standpoint, Hamlin's "biography" of cholera is detailed and meticulously researched and provides a comprehensive background on the biology and sociology of cholera since its appearance in Europe during the first pandemics. From a pleasure perspective, this book is too technical to be widely appreciated and tends to be dithering and to take an uncertainty in tone. I wouldn't generally recommend this book but can attest I read this book for a combination of business and pleasure. From an academic standpoint, Hamlin's "biography" of cholera is detailed and meticulously researched and provides a comprehensive background on the biology and sociology of cholera since its appearance in Europe during the first pandemics. From a pleasure perspective, this book is too technical to be widely appreciated and tends to be dithering and to take an uncertainty in tone. I wouldn't generally recommend this book but can attest to its topic-specific thoroughness.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laura Caplan

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Blast

  6. 4 out of 5

    Timo

  7. 5 out of 5

    Canan Bolel

  8. 5 out of 5

    Scoop Erickson

  9. 5 out of 5

    Iamreddave

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mzeheter

  11. 5 out of 5

    Larche Osborne-Simmons

  12. 4 out of 5

    James Simmerman

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alice Benson

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christin

  15. 4 out of 5

    Themirso

  16. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn R

  17. 4 out of 5

    Valentine

  18. 5 out of 5

    BA Klapper

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dave Black

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tan Shengli

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adomas Pūras

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

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    Josefine

  25. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Baker

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debolina

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Honna

  30. 5 out of 5

    Will2power

  31. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  32. 4 out of 5

    S

  33. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Pope

  34. 5 out of 5

    Gemma

  35. 5 out of 5

    Laura Daftari

  36. 4 out of 5

    Krissie Lenting

  37. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

  38. 5 out of 5

    tomsyak

  39. 5 out of 5

    Miles Winston

  40. 5 out of 5

    Alanna

  41. 4 out of 5

    Emilia

  42. 4 out of 5

    Clio7

  43. 4 out of 5

    Zi Ying

  44. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Williams-herrman

  45. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

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