After a storied 6-decade career, Henry T. Lynch—“the father of cancer genetics”—died Sunday in Nebraska at the age of 91. Known in his Navy days as “Hammerin’ Hank,” Lynch was convinced about the heredity of cancer at a time when most scientists blamed it on environmental…

A century ago in the US, it was illegal to provide information about contraception. But Where Are My Children?—a 1916 silent film directed by Lois Weber “paved the way for American cinema to openly discuss birth control,” writes Rebecca Kaplan.  

SARS and other deadly diseases have lasting social and emotional impacts. In Hong Kong—the locus of a 2003 outbreak—cautionary behaviors like wearing face masks and traumas experienced by medical professionals persist beyond the epidemic’s span.  

The Black Death and the Spanish flu may be the most famous epidemics—but have you heard of the Vatican malaria outbreak of 1623? Or the 1875 Fijian measles outbreak that killed 40,000?   Such lesser-known outbreaks changed the course of history and public health—sometimes…

Before antibiotics became widespread in the 1950s, the go-to treatment for tuberculosis was a healthy dose of isolation, fresh air and sunshine.   This protocol gave way to purpose-built sanatoria designed to minimize the spread of germs. Their design hallmarks, like flat…

The scourge of yellow fever that hit New Orleans from 1817-1905 brought a gruesome death to untold numbers in the city. Among survivors, a social hierarchy formed that favored the immune, and mythologized the disease to justify slavery. To avoid social purgatory, people…

The outsize burden of HIV and AIDS among women in former British colonies goes back to colonial legal systems’ approaches to property, according to new research.

Yesterday, August 20, marked World Mosquito Day: the day in 1897 that Ronald Ross, a British medical officer in India, discovered the malaria parasite in the “dapple-winged” mosquito—changing the course of history. The following day he drafted a poem including the lines…

Born May 12, 1820, Florence Nightingale first began tending to injured soldiers in 1855, during the Crimean War. Upon returning to London, she wrote about her experiences in the 1859 book “Notes on Nursing,” which became a widely used textbook.

The history of plagues is inextricably linked with the rise of urban environments, writes bioarcheologist Brenna Hassett in an excerpt from “Built on Bones: 15,000 Years of Urban Life and Death.”   “The real contribution of the invention of the city to the epidemiological…