As the massive, wearisome effort to stop COVID-19 presses on, it’s worth pausing to remember the successful eradication of another highly infective and deadly virus: smallpox. 

COVID-19 is far from the first illness to take an inordinate toll on Native Americans.   Past theories posited that the scourge of disease on Native Americans was due to lack of immunity to the diseases of colonizing Europeans.   But newer research points to more egregious…

The 1918 flu and other pandemics of yore didn’t need air travel to spread like wildfire—and closing borders today won’t stop COVID-19, either.   But today we have the strongest weapon ever against pandemics: information, writes the historian Noah Harari.   COVID-19’s…

N of 1 studies tend to get a bad rep compared “gold standard” large randomized control trials. But is that fair?   With N of 1 studies, “instead of taking a few measurements from many people, researchers can conduct many measurements from one person over time.” A growing…

Amidst a world consumed with big-picture worries, the contributions of a single person often get overlooked. They shouldn’t. Our children first met Barbara McGill when they were toddlers. Sitting on their mom’s lap, they clapped hands, bashed cymbals, and began to learn…

Ebola is named after the Ebola River. Marburg virus after a German university town. Legionnaires’ Disease was coined after an outbreak at an American Legion convention.   These nicknames may roll off the tongue—but they can also “provoke a backlash against members of…

Jean-Jacques Muyembe could have stayed in Europe after earning his PhD.   Instead, the epidemiologist returned to DRC in 1976, where he discovered the new, fast-killing disease later named Ebola.   The rest is history—much of it contorted to fit a colonial mold, writing out…

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.