Mortality and Morbidity in human history: Smallpox

U.S. Smallpox Epidemic of 1901-1903


There were a series of outbreaks in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and in Ohio and New  Jersey. It was introduced into New York in 1900 and by 1901, there were over 900 reported cases in Manhattan while Brooklyn had over 1,500 with over 200 deaths.

By 1902, the city opened five vaccination centers and vaccinated tens of thousands a day. Over a six month period, over 800,000 people had been vaccinated which greatly helped control the spread.

In the three years of the epidemic, there were 21,000 cases of smallpox and over 3,500 deaths.


from Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence: from Ancient Times to the Present.


Mortality and Morbidity in human history: Scarlet fever

Though Scarlet fever has been around for millennia, there seems have been a more deadly presentation of the disease in the 19th century. Epidemics popped up around Europe with dramatically increased fatality rates with children being the primary victims.


Scarlet fever, which is caused by a streptococcus bacteria, usually presents with a high fever, sore throat, characteristic rash and a really weird-looking tongue. For those who survived their bout of scarlet fever like Beth in Little Women, Thomas Edison, and possibly Helen Keller, complications could be severe and long-lasting. They include damage to complete loss of hearing, Rheumatic fever and Glomerulonephritis (Bright disease). Rheumatic fever can lead to damage to the heart which ostensibly is what permanently debilitated poor Beth.

There’s no vaccine but it is now treatable with antibiotics. We don’t typically think of diseases like this as troublesome now on account of the availability of treatment, though strangely, the UK seems to be experiencing a spike in cases. 

other source: CDC

Daubentonia madagascariensis…aka: the Aye-Aye


I started working on this short booklet about cool animals and random facts about them today. Here’s the Aye-Aye, one of the cooler prosimian primates, though I think all of those guys are pretty great.

Even though it is a primate, it has teeth that grow continuously, like a rodent. It uses them to gnaw holes in trees to get at bugs and the such.

Here’s a good website with lots of other cool stuff about them and the other primates.

Atalanta, the badass

I’ve been bouncing the idea around of a longer work about Atalanta for years now. Procrastination and harsh self-criticism have kept me from progressing very far on it so I thought if I did it in small spurts it would be easier. The written part, however, will have to stay hidden until it’s completed.



This is from “The Earthly Paradise” by William Morris. It’s in a super cool compilation of tales of gods and heroes from 1899 I found in a curios shop in Colorado.

Atalanta, daughter of King Schoeneus, not willing to lose her virgin’s estate, made it a law to all suitors that they should run a race with her in the public place, and if they failed to overcome her should die unrevenged; and thus many brave men perished. At last came Milanion, the son of Amphidamas, who outraged her with the help of Venus, gained the virgin and wedded her.