Doors open 5:30
Book signing and drinks reception 7pm
Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu to the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles to the 1930 ‘parrot fever’ pandemic, through the more recent SARS, Ebola, and Zika epidemics, the last one hundred years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated pandemic alarms.
In The Pandemic Century Mark Honigsbaum combines reportage with the history of science and medical sociology to artfully reconstruct epidemiological mysteries. In the process, we meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive or incompetent public health officials, and brilliant scientists often blinded by their own knowledge of bacteria and viruses. We also see how fear of disease often exacerbates racial, religious, and ethnic tensions.
These epidemics and pandemics are a reminder that, like man-eating sharks, predatory pathogens are always out there in nature waiting to strike. But most of all they are reminder of the limits of scientific knowledge and the role that human behavior and technologies play in the emergence and spread of microbial diseases.
Mark Honigsbaum is a medical historian, journalist, and author of The Fever Trail: In Search of the Cure for Malaria. He is currently a lecturer at City University, London.