The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis

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9780814719275: The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis

The victims of tuberculosis (usually known as consumption) included not only Keats, The Brontës, Chopin and Chekhov, but members of almost every family. It was a killer on a huge scale.

The White Death is an outstanding history of tuberculosis. Thomas Dormandy's engrossing account of the search for a cure is complemented by a description of its complex natural history and by portraits of individual sufferers, including writers, artists, and musicians, whose lives and work were shaped (and often tragically curtailed) by the disease. But, tuberculosis is not just a disease of the past. In many parts of the world it is still a bigger killer than AIDS, while in America and Europe drug-resistant strains threaten its resurgence.

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About the Author:

Thomas Dormandy, a physician and writer, is the author of Old Masters: Great Artists in Old Age.

From Publishers Weekly:

Accessible scientific and sociological history are combined by Dormandy, a consultant pathologist in London, in this account of a tenacious disease that has claimed victims from ancient Egypt to 1990s New York City. Focusing mostly on western Europe and the U.S., Dormandy vividly details the long struggle against tuberculosis. He takes readers through the high points of its history--from the discovery in 1882, by German physician Robert Koch, of the tubercle bacillus through the legendary tubercular deaths of writers, musicians and artists like Katherine Mansfield, George Orwell, D.H. Lawrence and Modigliani. He notes that before 1882, most observers thought infection was caused by a genetic predisposition, and doctors often treated it with measures such as bloodletting (which, Dormandy argues, hastened the deaths of famous sufferers like poet John Keats). Then he follows the disease as it made its way through crowded, poverty-stricken urban areas. He discusses the growth of the 19th century's sanatorium movement, examines the romantic, creative aura that was associated with it, and takes note of the post-WWII discovery and use of antibiotics, which began to effect dramatic cures. Dormandy points his research at present-day medical struggles--the global HIV epidemic, he notes, has combined with the emergence of multi-drug resistance to make tuberculosis, once thought almost eradicated, a threat to worldwide health again. Prodigious research and an engaging anecdotal style blend to make this a fascinating foray into the history of medicine. Illustrations and b&w photos. Editor, Niko Pfund. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Thomas Dormandy
Editorial: New York University Press (2000)
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