Past Times, Blackwell’s series of free history talks, continues with Mark Honigsbaum discussing his new book The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris.
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 pneumonic plague in LA and ‘parrot fever’ in Argentina to the more recent AIDS, SARS and Ebola epidemics, the last 100 years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated outbreaks and scares. Like man-eating sharks, predatory pathogens are always present in nature, waiting to strike; when one is seemingly vanquished, others appear in its place. The Pandemic Century exposes the limits of science against nature, and how these crises are shaped by humans as much as microbes.