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Posts Tagged ‘bubonic plague

“The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have”*…

 

From the always-amazing Randall Munroe, who reminds us that bacteria still outweigh us thousands to one– and that’s not counting the pounds of them in each of our bodies…

* “The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.” 
― David AttenboroughLife on Earth

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As we watch our weight, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to John Graunt; he was born on this date in 1620.  A London haberdasher by trade, Graunt was fascinated the human tide that swelled around him– a fascination that led him to create the first statistically-based estimation of the population of London in his book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, undertaken as Charles II and other officials were trying to create a system to warn of the onset and spread of bubonic plague in the city.  Profiled as one of Aubrey’s Brief Lives, Graunt has been called the first statistician, the first demographer, and was in any case the first statistician to become a fellow of the Royal Society of London.

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Written by LW

April 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

Her Majesty’s Rat-Catcher…

 

Biblical Egypt had its plague of locusts, modern New York City is terrorized by bedbugs, and Victorian London had a serious rat problem. Rats scurried around the city chewing up food, clogging up drains, passing around diseases, and frightening ladies. The task of reining in the rodents fell to village farmers (desperate to save the gnawed legs of their livestock) and rat vigilantes who killed for commission or provided rats for popular dog and rat matches.

And then there was the rat’s most notorious enemy: Jack Black, Rat-Catcher to Her Majesty The Queen…

Read the extraordinary story of this scourge of rodentkind at Lapham’s Quarterly.

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As we shriek “eek!”, we might spare a thought for Kitasato Shibasaburo; he died on this date in 1931.  A physician and bacteriologist, Shibasaburo discovered (essentially simultaneously with Alexandre Yersin) the bacterium Pasteurella pestis (now called Yersinia pestis), the infectious agent of bubonic plague.  Shibasaburo was also the first to grow a pure culture of the tetanus bacillus.

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Written by LW

June 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

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