The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 93%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (59) from $1.99   
  • New (1) from $50.00   
  • Used (58) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$50.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(149)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by

Overview

No disease the world has ever known even remotely resembles the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Presumed to have begun when sick farm animals infected soldiers in Kansas, spreading and mutating into a lethal strain as troops carried it to Europe, it exploded across the world with unequaled ferocity and speed. It killed more people in twenty weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty years; it killed more people in a year than the plagues of the Middle Ages killed in a century. Victims bled from the ears and nose, turned blue from lack of oxygen, suffered aches that felt like bones being broken, and died. In the United States, where bodies were stacked without coffins on trucks, nearly seven times as many people died of influenza as in the First World War.

In his powerful new book, award-winning historian John M. Barry unfolds a tale that is magisterial in its breadth and in the depth of its research, and spellbinding as he weaves multiple narrative strands together. In this first great collision between science and epidemic disease, even as society approached collapse, a handful of heroic researchers stepped forward, risking their lives to confront this strange disease. Titans like William Welch at the newly formed Johns Hopkins Medical School and colleagues at Rockefeller University and others from around the country revolutionized American science and public health, and their work in this crisis led to crucial discoveries that we are still using and learning from today.

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley said Barry’s last book can “change the way we think.” The Great Influenza may also change the way we see the world.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The Great Influenza is easily our fullest, richest, most panoramic history of the subject. Barry, who in the past has written about both cancer and the Mississippi flood of 1927, ranges widely, from the physiology of viruses to the development of the American Red Cross. — Barry Gewen
The Washington Post
Although we have several other superb histories of the 1918 influenza pandemic, John M. Barry presents a fascinating look at how the epidemic spread and how physicians and researchers rallied to mobilize against a global health crisis. Barry also supplies useful profiles of the American microbe hunters who struggled to stem the tide -- and shows in turn how their work was shaped by the vast transformations in American medicine that began around 1900, most especially the increasing ability not only to treat dreaded diseases but to halt or prevent them entirely. By synthesizing the work of several accomplished historians of medicine, Barry produces a sharp account of the epidemic's sudden onset, as well as the no less dramatic (and sometimes panicked) responses that it inspired. Barry also underlines the dismaying speed with which many survivors forgot the great influenza outbreak almost as soon as it appeared to end. — Howard Markel
Publishers Weekly
In 1918, a plague swept across the world virtually without warning, killing healthy young adults as well as vulnerable infants and the elderly. Hospitals and morgues were quickly overwhelmed; in Philadelphia, 4,597 people died in one week alone and bodies piled up on the streets to be carted off to mass graves. But this was not the dreaded Black Death-it was "only influenza." In this sweeping history, Barry (Rising Tide) explores how the deadly confluence of biology (a swiftly mutating flu virus that can pass between animals and humans) and politics (President Wilson's all-out war effort in WWI) created conditions in which the virus thrived, killing more than 50 million worldwide and perhaps as many as 100 million in just a year. Overcrowded military camps and wide-ranging troop deployments allowed the highly contagious flu to spread quickly; transport ships became "floating caskets." Yet the U.S. government refused to shift priorities away from the war and, in effect, ignored the crisis. Shortages of doctors and nurses hurt military and civilian populations alike, and the ineptitude of public health officials exacerbated the death toll. In Philadelphia, the hardest-hit municipality in the U.S., "the entire city government had done nothing" to either contain the disease or assist afflicted families. Instead, official lies and misinformation, Barry argues, created a climate of "fear... [that] threatened to break the society apart." Barry captures the sense of panic and despair that overwhelmed stricken communities and hits hard at those who failed to use their power to protect the public good. He also describes the work of the dedicated researchers who rushed to find the cause of the disease and create vaccines. Flu shots are widely available today because of their heroic efforts, yet we remain vulnerable to a virus that can mutate to a deadly strain without warning. Society's ability to survive another devastating flu pandemic, Barry argues, is as much a political question as a medical one. (Feb. 9) Forecast: Judging by the coverage on the news, we are in for a bad flu season this year, and with SARS barely behind us, this subject will always be topical. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The author of Rising Tide chronicles a disease that killed more people in 20 weeks than AIDS has killed in 20 years. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A keen recounting of the 1918-20 pandemic. This deadly global flu outbreak has gotten hazy in the public memory, and its origins and character were unclear from the beginning, writes popular historian Barry (Rising Tide, 1997, etc.). But influenza tore apart the world's social fabric for two long years, and it would be a mistake to forget its lessons. (It also tore apart the American medical establishment-but that was for the good.) With the same terrorizing flair of Richard Preston's Hot Zone, the author follows the disease in the way he might shadow a mugger, presenting us with the vivid aftereffects as if from Weegee's camera: "Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years." But Barry is not interested simply in hugely disturbing numbers. He charts how the pandemic brought a measure of scientific maturity to the medical world and profiles such important personalities as Paul Lewis and William Henry Welch, institutions like Johns Hopkins, the Rockefeller Institute, and the Red Cross. He covers with an easy touch the evolution in our understanding of viral disease and the strides that have been made to counter its effects, such as vaccines. He watches the flu spread until there aren't enough coffins to house the bodies, and he watches as the military fails to alert the general public because the brass feared it would hurt wartime morale. Influenza appears to have spread like a prairie fire from a military base in Kansas throughout the world, thanks to WWI troop deployment and the disease's highly contagious nature. There was nowhere to hide, Barrychillingly explains: "It now seemed as if there had never been life before the epidemic. The disease informed every action of every person." Emerging viruses, including new strains of flu, will likely visit us again. Majestic, spellbinding treatment of a mass killer. Agent: Raphael Sagalyn/Sagalyn Literary Agency
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670894734
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 2/9/2004
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.62 (h) x 1.72 (d)

Meet the Author


John M. Barry is the author of four previous books, including the highly acclaimed and award-winning Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Prologue
The Great War had brought Paul Lewis into the navy in 1918 as a lieutenant commander, but he never seemed quite at ease when in his uniform. It never seemed to fit quite right, or to sit quite right, and he was often flustered and failed to respond properly when sailors saluted him.

Yet he was every bit a warrior, and he hunted death.

When he found it he confronted it, challenged it, tried to pin it in place like a lepidopterist pinning down a butterfly, so he could then dissect it piece by piece, analyze it, and find a way to confound it. He did so often enough that the risks he took became routine.

Still, death had never appeared to him as it did now, in mid- September 1918. Row after row of men confronted him in the hospital ward, many of them bloody and dying in some new and awful way.

He had been called here to solve a mystery that dumbfounded the clinicians. For Lewis was a scientist. Although a physician he had never practiced on a patient. Instead, a member of the very first generation of American medical scientists, he had spent his life in the laboratory. He had already built an extraordinary career, an international reputation, and he was still young enough to be seen as just coming into his prime.

A decade earlier, working with his mentor at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City, he had proved that a virus caused polio, a discovery still considered a landmark achievement in the history of virology. He had then developed a vaccine that protected monkeys from polio with nearly 100 percent effectiveness.

That and other successes had won him the position of founding head of the Henry Phipps Institute, a research institute associated with the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1917 he had been chosen for the great honor of giving the annual Harvey Lecture. It seemed only the first of many honors that would come his way. Today, the children of two prominent scientists who knew him then and who crossed paths with many Nobel laureates say their fathers each told them that Lewis was the smartest man they had ever met.

The clinicians now looked to him to explain the violent symptoms these sailors presented. The blood that covered so many of them did not come from wounds, at least not from steel or explosives that had torn away limbs. Most of the blood had come from nosebleeds. A few sailors had coughed the blood up. Others had bled from their ears. Some coughed so hard that autopsies would later show they had torn apart abdominal muscles and rib cartilage. And many of the men writhed in agony or delirium; nearly all those able to communicate complained of headache, as if someone were hammering a wedge into their skulls just behind the eyes, and body aches so intense they felt like bones breaking. A few were vomiting. Finally the skin of some of the sailors had turned unusual colors; some showed just a tinge of blue around their lips or fingertips, but a few looked so dark one could not tell easily if they were Caucasian or Negro. They looked almost black.

Only once had Lewis seen a disease that in any way resembled this. Two months earlier, members of the crew of a British ship had been taken by ambulance from a sealed dock to another Philadelphia hospital and placed in isolation. There many of that crew had died. At autopsy their lungs had resembled those of men who had died from poison gas or pneumonic plague, a more virulent form of bubonic plague.

Whatever those crewmen had had, it had not spread. No one else had gotten sick.

But the men in the wards now not only puzzled Lewis. They had to have chilled him with fear also, fear both for himself and for what this disease could do. For whatever was attacking these sailors was not only spreading, it was spreading explosively.

And it was spreading despite a well-planned, concerted effort to contain it. This same disease had erupted ten days earlier at a navy facility in Boston. Lieutenant Commander Milton Rosenau at the Chelsea Naval Hospital there had certainly communicated to Lewis, whom he knew well, about it. Rosenau too was a scientist who had chosen to leave a Harvard professorship for the navy when the United States entered the war, and his textbook on public health was called “The Bible” by both army and navy military doctors.

Philadelphia navy authorities had taken Rosenau’s warnings seriously, especially since a detachment of sailors had just arrived from Boston, and they had made preparations to isolate any ill sailors should an outbreak occur. They had been confident that isolation would control it.

Yet four days after that Boston detachment arrived, nineteen sailors in Philadelphia were hospitalized with what looked like the same disease. Despite their immediate isolation and that of everyone with whom they had had contact, eighty-seven sailors were hospitalized the next day. They and their contacts were again isolated. But two days later, six hundred men were hospitalized with this strange disease. The hospital ran out of empty beds, and hospital staff began falling ill. The navy then began sending hundreds more sick sailors to a civilian hospital. And sailors and civilian workers were moving constantly between the city and navy facilities, as they had in Boston. Meanwhile, personnel from Boston, and now Philadelphia, had been and were being sent throughout the country as well.

That had to chill Lewis, too.

Lewis had visited the first patients, taken blood, urine, and sputum samples, done nasal washings, and swabbed their throats. Then he had come back again to repeat the process of collecting samples and to study the symptoms for any further clues. In his laboratory he and everyone under him poured their energies into growing and identifying whatever pathogen was making the men sick. He needed to find the pathogen. He needed to find the cause of the disease. And even more he needed to make a curative serum or a preventive vaccine.

Lewis loved the laboratory more than he loved anyone or anything. His work space was crammed; it looked like a thicket of icicles(test tubes in racks, stacked petri dishes, pipettes)but it warmed him, gave him as much and perhaps more comfort than did his home and family. But he did not love working like this. The pressure to find an answer did not bother him; much of his polio research had been conducted in the midst of an epidemic so extreme that New York City had required people to obtain passes to travel. What did bother him was the need to abandon good science. To succeed in preparing either a vaccine or serum, he would have to make a series of guesses based on at best inconclusive results, and each guess would have to be right.

He had already made one guess. If he did not yet know precisely what caused the disease, nor how or whether he could prevent it or cure it, he believed he knew what the disease was.

He believed it was influenza, although an influenza unlike any known before.

Lewis was correct. In 1918 an influenza virus emerged(probably in the United States)that would spread around the world, and one of its earliest appearances in lethal form came in Philadelphia. Before that worldwide pandemic faded away in 1920, it would kill more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history. Plague in the 1300s killed a far larger proportion of the population(more than one-quarter of Europe)but in raw numbers influenza killed more than plague then, more than AIDS today.

The lowest estimate of the pandemic’s worldwide death toll is twenty-one million, in a world with a population less than one-third today’s. That estimate comes from a contemporary study of the disease and newspapers have often cited it since, but it is almost certainly wrong. Epidemiologists today estimate that influenza likely caused at least fifty million deaths worldwide, and possibly as many as one hundred million.

Yet even that number understates the horror of the disease, a horror contained in other data. Normally influenza chiefly kills the elderly and infants, but in the 1918 pandemic roughly half of those who died were young men and women in the prime of their life, in their twenties and thirties. Harvey Cushing, then a brilliant young surgeon who would go on to great fame(and who himself fell desperately ill with influenza and never fully recovered from what was likely a complication)would call these victims “doubly dead in that they died so young.”

One cannot know with certainty, but if the upper estimate of the death toll is true as many as 8 to 10 percent of all young adults then living may have been killed by the virus.

And they died with extraordinary ferocity and speed. Although the influenza pandemic stretched over two years, perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.

The influenza pandemic resembled both of those scourges in other ways also. Like AIDS, it killed those with the most to live for. And as priests had done in the bubonic plague, in 1918, even in Philadelphia, as modern a city as existed in the world, priests would drive horse- drawn wagons down the streets, calling upon those behind doors shut tight in terror to bring out their dead.

Yet the story of the 1918 influenza virus is not simply one of havoc, death, and desolation, of a society fighting a war against nature superimposed on a war against another human society.

It is also a story of science, of discovery, of how one thinks, and of how one changes the way one thinks, of how amidst near-utter chaos a few men sought the coolness of contemplation, the utter calm that precedes not philosophizing but grim, determined action.

For the influenza pandemic that erupted in 1918 was the first great collision between nature and modern science. It was the first great collision between a natural force and a society that included individuals who refused either to submit to that force or to simply call upon divine intervention to save themselves from it, individuals who instead were determined to confront this force directly, with a developing technology and with their minds.

In the United States, the story is particularly one of a handful of extraordinary people, of whom Paul Lewis is one. These were men and some very few women who, far from being backward, had already developed the fundamental science upon which much of today’s medicine is based. They had already developed vaccines and antitoxins and techniques still in use. They had already pushed, in some cases, close to the edge of knowledge today.

In a way, these researchers had spent much of their lives preparing for the confrontation that occurred in 1918 not only in general but, for a few of them at least, quite specifically. In every war in American history so far, disease had killed more soldiers than combat. In many wars throughout history war had spread disease. The leaders of American research had anticipated that a major epidemic of some kind would erupt during the Great War. They had prepared for it as much as it was possible to prepare. Then they waited for it to strike.

The story, however, begins earlier. Before medicine could confront this disease with any promise of effect, it had to become scientific. It had to be revolutionized.

Medicine is not yet and may never be fully a science(the idiosyncrasies, physical and otherwise, of individual patients and doctors may prevent that)but, up to a few decades before World War I, the practice of medicine had remained quite literally almost unchanged from the time of Hippocrates more than two thousand years earlier. Then, in Europe first, medical science changed and, finally, the practice of medicine changed.

But even after European medicine changed, medicine in the United States did not. In research and education especially, American medicine lagged far behind, and that made practice lag as well.

While for decades European medical schools had, for example, required students to have a solid background in chemistry, biology, and other sciences, as late as 1900, it was more difficult to get into a respectable American college than into an American medical school. At least one hundred U.S. medical schools would accept any man(but not woman)willing to pay tuition; at most 20 percent of the schools required even a high school diploma for admission(much less any academic training in science)and only a single medical school required its students to have a college degree. Nor, once students entered, did American schools necessarily make up for any lack of scientific background. Many schools bestowed a medical degree upon students who simply attended lectures and passed examinations; in some, students could fail several courses, never touch a single patient, and still get a medical degree.

Not until late(very late)in the nineteenth century, did a virtual handful of leaders of American medical science begin to plan a revolution that transformed American medicine from the most backward in the developed world into the best in the world.

William James, who was a friend of(and whose son would work for)several of these men, wrote that the collecting of a critical mass of men of genius could make a whole civilization “vibrate and shake.” These men intended to, and would, shake the world.

To do so required not only intelligence and training but real courage, the courage to relinquish all support and all authority. Or perhaps it required only recklessness.

In Faust, Goethe wrote, “Tis writ, ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ I Pause, to wonder what is here inferred. The Word I cannot set supremely high: A new translation I will try. I read, if by the spirit, I am taught, This sense, ‘In the beginning was the Thought. . . .’”

Upon “the Word” rested authority, stability, and law; “the Thought” roiled and ripped apart and created without knowledge or concern of what it would create.

Shortly before the Great War began, the men who so wanted to transform American medicine succeeded. They created a system that could produce people capable of thinking in a new way, capable of challenging the natural order. They, together with the first generation of scientists they had trained(Paul Lewis and his few peers)formed a cadre who stood on alert, hoping against but expecting and preparing for the eruption of an epidemic.

When it came, they placed their lives in the path of the disease and applied all their knowledge and powers to defeat it. As it overwhelmed them, they concentrated on constructing the body of knowledge necessary to eventually triumph. For the scientific knowledge that ultimately came out of the influenza pandemic pointed directly(and still points)to much that lies in medicine’s future.

Part I
The Warriors

Chapter One
On September 12, 1876, the crowd overflowing the auditorium of Baltimore’s Academy of Music was in a mood of hopeful excitement, but excitement without frivolity. Indeed, despite an unusual number of women in attendance, many of them from the uppermost reaches of local society, a reporter noted, “There was no display of dress or fashion.” For this occasion had serious purpose. It was to mark the launching of the Johns Hopkins University, an institution whose leaders intended not simply to found a new university but to change all of American education; indeed, they sought considerably more than that. They planned to change the way in which Americans tried to understand and grapple with nature. The keynote speaker, the English scientist Thomas H. Huxley, personified their goals.

The import was not lost on the nation. Many newspapers, including the New York Times, had reporters covering this event. After it, they would print Huxley’s address in full.

For the nation was then, as it so often has been, at war with itself; in fact it was engaged in different wars simultaneously, each being waged on several fronts, wars that ran along the fault lines of modern America.

One involved expansion and race. In the Dakotas, George Armstrong Custer had just led the Seventh Cavalry to its destruction at the hands of primitive savages resisting encroachment of the white man. The day Huxley spoke, the front page of the Washington Star reported that “the hostile Sioux, well fed and well armed” had just carried out “a massacre of miners.”

In the South a far more important but equally savage war was being waged as white Democrats sought “redemption” from Reconstruction in anticipation of the presidential election. Throughout the South “rifle clubs,” “saber clubs,” and “rifle teams” of former Confederates were being organized into infantry and cavalry units. Already accounts of intimidation, beatings, whippings, and murder directed against Republicans and blacks had surfaced. After the murder of three hundred black men in a single Mississippi county, one man, convinced that words from the Democrats’ own mouths would convince the world of their design, pleaded with the New York Times, “For God’s sake publish the testimony of the Democrats before the Grand Jury.”

Voting returns had already begun to come in(there was no single national election day)and two months later Democrat Samuel Tilden would win the popular vote by a comfortable margin. But he would never take office as president. Instead the Republican secretary of war would threaten to “force a reversal” of the vote, federal troops with fixed bayonets would patrol Washington, and southerners would talk of reigniting the Civil War. That crisis would ultimately be resolved through an extraconstitutional special committee and a political understanding: Republicans would discard the voting returns of three states(Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina)and seize a single disputed electoral vote in Oregon to keep the presidency in the person of Rutherford B. Hayes. But they also would withdraw all federal troops from the South and cease intervening in southern affairs, leaving the Negroes there to fend for themselves.

The war involving the Hopkins was more muted but no less profound. The outcome would help define one element of the character of the nation: the extent to which the nation would accept or reject modern science and, to a lesser degree, how secular it would become, how godly it would remain.

Precisely at 11:00 a.m., a procession of people advanced upon the stage. First came Daniel Coit Gilman, president of the Hopkins, and on his arm was Huxley. Following in single file came the governor, the mayor, and other notables. As they took their seats the conversations in the audience quickly died away, replaced by expectancy of a kind of declaration of war.

Of medium height and middle age(though he already had iron-gray hair and nearly white whiskers)and possessed of what was described as “a pleasant face,” Huxley did not look the warrior. But he had a warrior’s ruthlessness. His dicta included the pronouncement: “The foundation of morality is to have done, once and for all, with lying.” A brilliant scientist, later president of the Royal Society, he advised investigators, “Sit down before a fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.” He also believed that learning had purpose, stating, “The great end of life is not knowledge but action.”

To act upon the world himself, he became a proselytizer for faith in human reason. By 1876 he had become the world’s foremost advocate of the theory of evolution and of science itself. Indeed, H. L. Mencken said that “it was he, more than any other man, who worked that great change in human thought which marked the Nineteenth Century.” Now President Gilman gave a brief and simple introduction. Then Professor Huxley began to speak.

Normally he lectured on evolution, but today he was speaking on a subject of even greater magnitude. He was speaking about the process of intellectual inquiry. The Hopkins was to be unlike any other university in America. Aiming almost exclusively at the education of graduate students and the furtherance of science, it was intended by its trustees to rival not Harvard or Yale(neither of them considered worthy of emulation)but the greatest institutions of Europe, and particularly Germany. Perhaps only in the United States, a nation ever in the act of creating itself, could such an institution come into existence both so fully formed in concept and already so renowned, even before the foundation of a single building had been laid.

“His voice was low, clear and distinct,” reported one listener. “The audience paid the closest attention to every word which fell from the lecturer’s lips, occasionally manifesting their approval by applause.” Said another, “Professor Huxley’s method is slow, precise, and clear, and he guards the positions which he takes with astuteness and ability. He does not utter anything in the reckless fashion which conviction sometimes countenances and excuses, but rather with the deliberation that research and close inquiry foster.”

Huxley commended the bold goals of the Hopkins, expounded upon his own theories of education(theories that soon informed those of William James and John Dewey)and extolled the fact that the existence of the Hopkins meant “finally, that neither political nor ecclesiastical sectarianism” would interfere with the pursuit of the truth.

In truth, Huxley’s speech, read a century and a quarter later, seems remarkably tame. Yet Huxley and the entire ceremony left an impression in the country deep enough that Gilman would spend years trying to edge away from it, even while simultaneously trying to fulfill the goals Huxley applauded.

For the ceremony’s most significant word was one not spoken: not a single participant uttered the word “God” or made any reference to the Almighty. This spectacular omission scandalized those who worried about or rejected a mechanistic and necessarily godless view of the universe. And it came in an era in which American universities had nearly two hundred endowed chairs of theology and fewer than five in medicine, an era in which the president of Drew University had said that, after much study and experience, he had concluded that only ministers of the Gospel should be college professors.

The omission also served as a declaration: the Hopkins would pursue the truth, no matter to what abyss it led.

In no area did the truth threaten so much as in the study of life. In no area did the United States lag behind the rest of the world so much as in its study of the life sciences and medicine. And in that area in particular the influence of the Hopkins would be immense.

By 1918, as America marched into war, the nation had come not only to rely upon the changes wrought largely, though certainly not entirely, by men associated with the Hopkins; the United States Army had mobilized these men into a special force, focused and disciplined, ready to hurl themselves at an enemy.

The two most important questions in science are “What can I know?” and “How can I know it?”

Science and religion in fact part ways over the first question, what each can know. Religion, and to some extent philosophy, believes it can know, or at least address, the question, “Why?”

For most religions the answer to this question ultimately comes down to the way God ordered it. Religion is inherently conservative; even one proposing a new God only creates a new order.

The question “why” is too deep for science. Science instead believes it can only learn “how” something occurs.

The revolution of modern science and especially medical science began as science not only focused on this answer to “What can I know?” but more importantly, changed its method of inquiry, changed its answer to “How can I know it?”

This answer involves not simply academic pursuits; it affects how a society governs itself, its structure, how its citizens live. If a society does set Goethe’s “Word . . . supremely high,” if it believes that it knows the truth and that it need not question its beliefs, then that society is more likely to enforce rigid decrees, and less likely to change. If it leaves room for doubt about the truth, it is more likely to be free and open.

In the narrower context of science, the answer determines how individuals explore nature(how one does science). And the way one goes about answering a question, one’s methodology, matters as much as the question itself. For the method of inquiry underlies knowledge and often determines what one discovers: how one pursues a question often dictates, or at least limits, the answer.

Indeed, methodology matters more than anything else. Methodology subsumes, for example, Thomas Kuhn’s well-known theory of how science advances. Kuhn gave the word “paradigm” wide usage by arguing that at any given point in time, a particular paradigm, a kind of perceived truth, dominates the thinking in any science. Others have applied his concept to nonscientific fields as well.

According to Kuhn, the prevailing paradigm tends to freeze progress, indirectly by creating a mental obstacle to creative ideas and directly by, for example, blocking research funds from going to truly new ideas, especially if they conflict with the paradigm. He argues that nonetheless researchers eventually find what he calls “anomalies” that do not fit the paradigm. Each one erodes the foundation of the paradigm, and when enough accrue to undermine it, the paradigm collapses. Scientists then cast about for a new paradigm that explains both the old and new facts.

But the process(and progress)of science is more fluid than Kuhn’s concept suggests. It moves more like an amoeba, with soft and ill- defined edges. More importantly, method matters. Kuhn’s own theory recognizes that the propelling force behind the movement from one explanation to another comes from the methodology, from what we call the scientific method. But he takes as an axiom that those who ask questions constantly test existing hypotheses. In fact, with a methodology that probes and tests hypotheses(regardless of any paradigm)progress is inevitable. Without such a methodology, progress becomes merely coincendental.

Yet the scientific method has not always been used by those who inquire into nature. Through most of known history, investigators trying to penetrate the natural world, penetrate what we call science, relied upon the mind alone, reason alone. These investigators believed that they could know a thing if their knowledge followed logically from what they considered a sound premise. In turn they based their premises chiefly on observation.

This commitment to logic coupled with man’s ambition to see the entire world in a comprehensive and cohesive way actually imposed blinders on science in general and on medicine in particular. The chief enemy of progress, ironically, became pure reason. And for the bulk of two and a half millennia(twenty-five hundred years)the actual treatment of patients by physicians made almost no progress at all.

One cannot blame religion or superstition for this lack of progress. In the West, beginning at least five hundred years before the birth of Christ, medicine was largely secular. While Hippocratic healers(the various Hippocratic texts were written by different people)did run temples and accept pluralistic explanations for disease, they pushed for material explanations.

Hippocrates himself was born in approximately 460 b.c. On the Sacred Disease, one of the more famous Hippocratic texts and one often attributed to him directly, even mocked theories that attributed epilepsy to the intervention of gods. He and his followers advocated precise observation, then theorizing. As the texts stated, “For a theory is a composite memory of things apprehended with sense perception.” “But conclusions which are merely verbal cannot bear fruit.” “I approve of theorizing also if it lays its foundation in incident, and deduces its conclusion in accordance with phenomena.”

But if such an approach sounds like that of a modern investigator, a modern scientist, it lacked two singularly important elements.

First, Hippocrates and his associates merely observed nature. They did not probe it.

This failure to probe nature was to some extent understandable. To dissect a human body then was inconceivable. But the authors of the Hippocratic texts did not test their conclusions and theories. A theory must make a prediction to be useful or scientific(ultimately it must say, If this, then that)and testing that prediction is the single most important element of modern methodology. Once that prediction is tested, it must advance another one for testing. It can never stand still.

Those who wrote the Hippocratic texts, however, observed passively and reasoned actively. Their careful observations noted mucus discharges, menstrual bleeding, watery evacuations in dysentery, and they very likely observed blood left to stand, which over time separates into several layers, one nearly clear, one of somewhat yellowy serum, one of darker blood. Based on these observations, they hypothesized that there were four kinds of bodily fluids, or “humours”: blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile. (This terminology survives today in the phrase “humoral immunity,” which refers to elements of the immune system, such as antibodies, that circulate in the blood.)

This hypothesis made sense, comported with observations, and could explain many symptoms. It explained, for example, that coughs were caused by the flow of phlegm to the chest. Observations of people coughing up phlegm certainly supported this conclusion.

In a far broader sense, the hypothesis also conformed to the ways in which the Greeks saw nature: they observed four seasons, four aspects of the environment(cold, hot, wet, and dry)and four elements(earth, air, fire, and water).

Medicine waited six hundred years for the next major advance, for Galen, but Galen did not break from these teachings; he systematized them, perfected them. Galen claimed, “I have done as much for medicine as Trajan did for the Roman Empire when he built the bridges and roads through Italy. It is I, and I alone, who have revealed the true path of medicine. It must be admitted that Hippocrates already staked out this path. . . . He prepared the way, but I have made it possible.”

Galen did not simply observe passively. He dissected animals and, although he did not perform autopsies on humans, served as a physician to gladiators whose wounds allowed him to see deep beneath the skin. Thus his anatomic knowledge went far beyond that of any known predecessor. But he remained chiefly a theoretician, a logician; he imposed order on the Hippocratic body of work, reconciling conflicts, reasoning so clearly that, if one accepted his premises, his conclusions seemed inevitable. He made the humoral theory perfectly logical, and even elegant. As historian Vivian Nutton notes, he raised the theory to a truly conceptual level, separating the humours from direct correlation with bodily fluids and making them invisible entities “recognizable only by logic.”

Galen’s works were translated into Arabic and underlay both Western and Islamic medicine for nearly fifteen hundred years before facing any significant challenge. Like the Hippocratic writers, Galen believed that illness was essentially the result of an imbalance in the body. He also thought that balance could be restored by intervention; a physician thus could treat a disease successfully. If there was a poison in the body, then the poison could be removed by evacuation. Sweating, urinating, defecating, and vomiting were all ways that could restore balance. Such beliefs led physicians to recommend violent laxatives and other purgatives, as well as mustard plasters and other prescriptions that punished the body, that blistered it and theoretically restored balance. And of all the practices of medicine over the centuries, one of the the most enduring(yet least understandable to us today)was a perfectly logical extension of Hippocratic and Galenic thou

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

prologue 1

Part I: THE WARRIORS 9
Part II: THE SWARM 89
Part III: THE TINDERBOX 117
Part IV: IT BEGINS 167
Part V: EXPLOSION 195
Part VI: THE PESTILENCE 229
Part VII: THE RACE 253
Part VIII: THE TOLLING OF THE BELL 297
Part IX: LINGERER 367
Part X: ENDGAME 399
afterword 448
Acknowledgments 463
Notes 467
Bibliography 507
Index 529
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 50 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 27, 2010

    The best historical book I've ever read!

    For every fiction novel I read, I read at least three historical books. Unlike so many others, this book doesn't focus on war, politics, or corruption, it focuses on a sickness and the devastation it caused. From the history of medical science in America to the details of the death and sorrow of millions around the world, this book covers it all in great detail. I've read and re-read parts, simply because it's fascinating!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 12, 2009

    Good book!

    I enjoyed the book - at times it was a little more technical than I would want, but if you get past that, it's an excellent read. Timely since the swine flu outbreak. Amazing what medical staff and media can do during an outbreak to downplay something so serious. So many people died during this influenza, that didn't need to die. I really liked the book overall, and would recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Remember the Bugs in War of the Worlds

    Talk about relevant books for our time. This one is most current and very topical. Of course the interesting thing about influenza outbreaks is how much terror they create in people along with the unfortunate death and disablement that the pandemics leave in their wake. This well-researched work by author Barry provides an interesting and informative journey through the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 1918 and 1919. Gee, that is the same virus that is suspected in the current "swine flu" outbreak. This author plods along from the beginning of the 1918 outbreak, with its suspected origination in the midWest (USA). All the medical researchers and many government health leaders are briefly profiled along with clear explanations of the virus and its workings, even us laymen readers can understand. Most shocking in this story is the all-consuming effort by the US government to gear the country up for fighting the Germans in World War I. Censorship, stupidity, hate, ignorance and numerous other factors play into the nation led by President Wilson that made this outbreak much more devastating than it should have been allowed to become. It is estimated that almost 50 Million people around the world succumbed to the virus. One is shocked by the medical and political behaviors that the author presents. This is must reading for a proper understanding of how virus and man live together and have lived together for probably thousands of years. Finally, I must comment on the important fact as to why this flu (and the current one) proved so fatal to young people (usually aged 19 to 35 years, their prime years). Do not be shocked to learn that it is our own body's strong immune systems (strongest in that age group) that in its fight against the H1N1 virus literally tore the person's internal body parts apart resulting in the high mortality rate. The virus killed by causing a massive immune reaction. I found this to be the most tantalizing bit of information presented in this tome. That and the fact that fear of flu pandemic is what we have to look forward to in the next attack. Maybe in the spring? Good luck.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2007

    truly extraordinary

    I picked this book up looking for -- strangely enough-- something quick and easy. Instead I found what I regard as a brilliant book with a compelling narrative. It takes on a complex and all-too-relevant subject-- what with threats from both bioterrorism and pandemic influenza-- and addresses it in a way that not only makes the science about infectious disease and immunology clear, but somehow manages to do so in page-turner fashion. Its insights and analysis go well beyond the 1918 pandemic itself. They get deep into how you do science, and how politics and the media, and society for that matter, function under enormous pressure. I am frankly puzzled by some other reviewers' comments that they can't follow the personalities. I found them fascinating, and a valuable addition that really helped me understand what was going on. A great book. Now onto Barry's other books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2007

    Very Intersting

    I've enjoyed this book and found it very interesting. Before reading this book I don't recall ever hearing of the influenza pandemic of 1918, and I had no idea of it's severity. I think everyone would benefit from a read, since this is a subject with application for modern times and the future. Coming from someone in the medical field, prior medical knowledge may be helpful in reading this book, but unlike others, I do not feel that a medical background is a prerequisite. Barry does a great job of describing immunology and clinical symptoms in terms that the general public would find easy to understand, so do not be intimidated. The only recommendation I have would be to skip Part I 'the first five chapters' 'The Warriors.' It reads like a collection of biographies about the various individuals involved in the medical community at the time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2007

    A History

    This book was fast paced at times, somewhat slow at others, however very detailed and informative throughout. If you're looking for a book, solely on disease, death, and the stats they produce, this book may not be for you. If you would like to understand the HOW and WHY coupled with history, a grim one at that than don't hesitate to pick this one up. One may find it advantagous to start with the authors acknowledgments to get a better idea of what direction he was headed in.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2007

    A reviewer

    There were parts that were very interesting such as the discriptions of the diseases, however the rest of the book only talked about people who were in some way affiliated with the discovery of a vaccination for influenza. The accounts of these people were completely irrelevent to the subject matter, going into minute details such as their marital status, their eating habits, and their overall happiness. Thus had these irrelevant parts been expunged, the book would have been half as long and twice as interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2007

    disappointed

    I found this book difficult to follow due to the large use of peoples names and how the book seemed to change topics repeatedly. There is a large amount of science information & clinical terms which at times can be difficult to follow, even for myself who has a medical career.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2006

    Timely, Interesting, and well written.

    Mr. Barry has the wonderful ability to build excitement and suspense even with historical medical information. Extemely well written, he is able to develop the story while letting the reader get inside the minds of the doctors, scientists, politicians and victims of the pandemic. An important story that should never be forgotten.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2013

    Great book

    Super interesting

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    Great book! I am, admittedly, a huge history nerd, so I really e

    Great book! I am, admittedly, a huge history nerd, so I really enjoy a well researched, well laid-out historical book. This one was outstanding. I will be reading more by Mr. Barry.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    Great book

    Good representation of what happened

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 14, 2012

    Way too tedious...it might as well be a text book

    I picked up this book after seeing a PBS series on this subject. I found the subject fascinating. However I found the book to over-anlaytical about the science of medicine. The details in which author goes to so that the reader can get an in depth understanding of how a doctor works to cure a disease was too much. I skipped most of it because I was mostly interested in how the disease began, its affects on the country, whats was being done about, and how it eventually subsided. The gist of the book was that the government wasn't prepared (or didn't know how) to deal with the illness as it was affecting the war in europe leaving Woodrow Wilson (a victim of this flu near its end) with having to choose between two evils...continue packing men onto ships where the disease would infect the military leaving them unable to fight upon arrival in Europe or wait until the influenza came to an end while watching Europe become infected by the enemy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2011

    Got my flu shot today!

    Great Historical perspective. The pandemic didn't happen in a vacuum. This book gave political setting, perspectives on scientific advances of the time, and the theory behind the medical treatments of the time. The book also helped me understand the workings of the influenza virus. Just enough to make me want to know more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2011

    Exhaustively researched and compelling story

    When the H1N1 virus scare started a couple of years ago, I too wondered what the big deal was. It's just the flu, right? Apparently this is what others thought in 1918 as well when the flu virus mutated and jumped from pigs to humans in Kansas (or so the story goes) and spread from there into the war machine already in motion, leading to the epidemic. I think I finally understand why it is not "just the flu" and how the humble flu can sometimes mutate into something much more lethal. I loved the science in this book, although I've read a few reviews that indicate that he made some mistakes in his explanations, which explains a few moments of "hmmm...that doesn't sound quite right". And yes, the first few chapters read a little bit like Genesis, but I stand with those who believe that understanding the primitive nature of the state of medicine in the United States in the early 1900's is part of the key to understanding how this epidemic unfolded, why it was so deadly, and why there was little medicine could do to slow it down or stop it. Although I tend to agree with those who criticize the passages devoted to seemingly irrelevant details about the lives of the medical researchers in the field at the time (and there are some irrelevant details), I think ultimately it serves as a reminder that those who do research are human, and they sometimes focus on the wrong things, get side-tracked by unexpected results or developments, or are influenced by outside forces to pursue lines of research not ultimately fruitful. Barry shines a spotlight on these factors in this book, and from the reaction in the medical and epidemiological circles, it seems the book has served an important purpose. I hope that means that there is research ongoing into influenza, even though there is no current crisis. This is a book that deserves your time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 15, 2010

    Fascinating Topic

    Not the world's "best read" but a very timely, factual, historical book with incredible relevance, given the spread of swine flu. This book definitely dragged at times, in part because of the level of detail, but given the fascinating topic, I was engrossed enough to wade through all the details. The book is about the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 1917 and 1918, and reads like a mystery story, tracing the origins of the outbreak, against the backdrop of World War I, and the developments within science at the time. I listened to the book on tape, while travelling through the Midwest, through Kansas (the suspected site of origin of H1N1), and found myself not only thinking about the current H1N1 outbreak, but Stephen King's The Stand. Efforts to quaranteen and government attempts to deal with this threat were also quite intriguing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Great for the inside story.

    This is a great inside the story book for the history behind the Spanish Flu. The problems encountered and the solutions found directly apply today too. This is a great historical book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 8, 2010

    Intersting, but too much peripheral info

    Covers a lot of medical history, most related to the flu, but sometimes goes pretty far afield. Awkward writing style, does not read like a modern fiction book. Only gets to the heart of the matter at the very end -the flu is a virus, that mutates very fast, so is hard to make good vacines, etc.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2007

    A reviewer

    Very eye opening account of the biggest killer disease of our time. We have not seen a flu virus since the spanish flu. God help us if we do.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2007

    skip the first 200 pages

    Great detail, reads like a graduate project gone bad for the first 200 or so pages. The fascinating part is when he starts describing the detail and symptoms of the disease. A wealth of knowledge masked in an ocean of words. KEEP READING ...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)