Spores, Plagues and History: The Story of Anthrax

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9781930754454: Spores, Plagues and History: The Story of Anthrax

Spores, Plagues and History is the tale of one of history's most deadly bacterium, which has been causing natural disease since the time of Moses and man-made illness since World War II. Beginning with a description of the U.S. anthrax bioterrorism attacks of 2001, the story goes back in time to the earlist hint of the disease, the 5th and 6th plagues of Moses. Several epidemics are then described where anthrax was the putative cause, (e.g. , the Plague of Athens in 430 B.C. and Woolsorter's Disease in England during the late 18th and early 19th centuries), arriving at the modern era, when anthrax and other pathogens were studied and used as weapons of mass destruction by several nations, including Japan, Russia and the U.S. The story concludes where it began, with a description of how the U.S. has prepared itself -- or not -- for a future bioterrorist attack.

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About the Author:

Chris Holmes, M.D., is a medical epidemiologist whose career spans pediatric practice, academic preventive medicine, and U.S. Navy Medical Service. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of California, Riverside; an M.D. from the University of Cincinnati; and an M.Sc. in Public Health from the University of Utah. He has authored fifteen professional articles in peer-reviewed journals on topics as diverse as pediatrics, occupational medicine, biomedical ethics, and the history of medicine. He was a consultant for the 19th Edition of Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, and has served as a reviewer for several professional journals. Chris' other published books are: The Medusa Strain (Durban House, 2002), a Foreword Magazine finalist for best mystery of 2002 and a gripping novel of bioterrorism; The Garden of Evil (Durban House, 2005), a novel highlighting the threat of food-borne terrorism; and Blood on the Tartan, an historical romance set in the Highlands of 19th century Scotland. A fifth book, The Mosquito Tapes, a forensic thriller is in press. Chris lives in Escondido, California with his wife and two dogs. He is an avid gardener and enjoys playing contract bridge, long-distance running, and spoiling his four granddaughters.

Review:

As the author points out in the preface of this entertaining text, histories are usually about big things, about wars and momentous events. But this book is about a microbe: anthrax. Dr. Holmes has presented to us an educational and entertaining account of the earliest knowldege of this microbe and how it came to be used as a weapon. With this book, Dr. Holmes traces the known history of anthrax from Moses to Saddam Husseim. He shows us how it has caused problems for millenia and tracks its beginnings as a weapon. He caps the past with frightening accounts of the very recent uses of anthrax, even leaving us with several unknowns about where we will go next. . . In an effective, unique style, Dr. Holmes blends rigourous historical facts with speculative fiction -- but he always makes it plain when he diverges to a fictional account. . .Dr. Holmes uses this technique effectively more than once in this book -- including accounts of recent trials into weaponization of anthrax. Two very memorable chapters from Spores are the chapters about the lives and work of Drs. Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, including a brief discussion of the animosity that existed between the two. Reading about how these two giants advanced the fields of bacteriology, epidemiology, and medicine in general is both enlightening and entertaining. The final sections of the book discuss at length the last few generations of anthrax science, including discussions of the infamous Japanese experiments in Manchuria during WW II, and the later obtaining of those secrets by America, Russia, and China. The discussions on what followed, with experimentation and the secrecy surrounding this in each of these countries, is frankly terrifying. Overall, Spores, Plagues and History is a highly entertaining and educational read, and one that every person connected with terrorism and medicine can benefit from reading. --Journal of Emergency Medicine, V.30, Issue 1, January, 2006, p. 127

Spores, Plagues and History contains a mix of topics: the medical identification and treatment of anthrax, the history of the recent anthrax bioterror attack in the United States, the history of presumed anthrax use as a weapon of terror, and the influence of anthrax through history. These subjects are coupled with a discussion of past biowarfare programs, primarily of Japan, the United states, and Russia. The book is an enjoyable and overall informative read. . . Dr. Holmes does a service by bringing this book out at this time. His many examples of the use of terror, from the ninth century BC to th present, help to focus a clear description of the intended hazard to life of such biologic weapons. --Bull. Hist. Med., 2005, 79:382-3.

Medical epidemiologist Chris Holmes, M.D. presents Spores, Plagues and History: The Story of Anthrax, a straightforward accounting of this devastating disease and its effects on humanity throughout history. From 'woolsorter's disease' during the Industrial Revolution, to modern-day biological weapons, and so much more, Holmes' extensively researched sources aptly trace a path in clear, no-nonsense terms that students of both World History and Medical History will greatly appreciate. A work of impecable scholarship, Spores Plagues And History is very strongly recommended for academic library reference collections. --Midwest Book Review, January 17, 2004.

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