Skip to main content

MCDB 4310 Microbial Genetics and Physiology (Copley) - SPC Visit 2

A guide to rare and historic materials related to the four diseases you will study in depth: tuberculosis, plague, influenza, and HIV. It also includes embedded worksheet questions on the sources.

Plague

Plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Bubonic plague is transmitted by bites from an infected flea, which typically live on rodents. Pneumonic plague is spread between humans by coughing and sneezing. Y. pestis caused the infamous "Black Death" in the 1300s, the most deadly human pandemic the world has ever experienced. Historians define three plague pandemics in human history:

  • 541-542: The "Plague of Justinian" hit the Mediterranean and recurred frequently for the next 200 years
  • 1340s: The "Black Death" began in central Asia and spread to Europe by 1347. The last outbreak in Europe occurred in 1665, over 300 years later.
  • Late 1800s: The Third Plague Pandemic hit Asia, specifically China and India, particularly hard. The pandemic lasted until 1960.

https://blogs.royalsociety.org/history-of-science/files/Hooke-R-IM006136.jpg

The Black Death in Europe (1300s)

Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron (1353)

File:Manuscript from the Decameron by Giovanni Decameron, illustrated by Taddeo Crivelli (1467).jpg

Boccaccio’s Decameron, written in Italy in 1353, is a fictional novel following seven young women and three young men who fled Florence to a villa outside the city during the Black Death (1348) and passed the time telling each other stories. The author lived through the pandemic in Italy and begins the book by giving graphic descriptions of the physical, psychological and social effects of bubonic plague, as well as how people of the period dealt with it. Read a few pages of the author's introduction:

 

 

London's Great Plague (1665-6)

London's Dreadful Visitation: Or, A Collection of All the Bills of Mortality (London, 1666).

Europe's last major plague outbreak tied to the Black Death occurred in London in 1665. Notice that this book sometimes uses an old symbol called the “long s” that looks like ſ or ʃ (it is an “s,” not an “f”). See the mortality chart for this outbreak:

 

 

A Recipe for a Plague Remedy (1743)

"A Receipt against the Plague," Gentleman’s Magazine (London, 1743).

Plague was still a serious problem 300 years after the Black Death. As with other diseases, people attempted to create medicine to counteract the plague, as with this recipe for a potential way to fight off plague:

Modern Plague in Colorado

"Colorado Plague Summary, 2004," Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Denver, 2004)Black-Tailed Prairie Dog.jpg

Plague is still present around the world and leads to a number of infections and fatalities every year. In places such as Colorado, officials test for plague. Check out the following short report on plague in Colorado from 2004:

 

 

Summer 2021: Libraries' Services

We're here to support both research and relaxation - check out our Summer Guide to the Libraries: Student Edition.

Rare and Distinctive Collections

rad@colorado.edu

Virtual Reading Room

Website

Classroom: Norlin N345

Reading Room: Norlin M350B

 

Rare and Distinctive Collections

rad@colorado.edu

Virtual Reading Room

Website

Classroom: Norlin N345

Reading Room: Norlin M350B