Germs, Genes, and Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We are Today

Germs, Genes, and Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We are Today

Hardback Ft Press Science Series

By (author) David P. Clark

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  • Publisher: FINANCIAL TIMES PRENTICE HALL
  • Format: Hardback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 231mm x 28mm | 590g
  • Publication date: 22 May 2010
  • Publication City/Country: Upper Saddle River
  • ISBN 10: 0137019963
  • ISBN 13: 9780137019960
  • Edition: 1
  • Sales rank: 468,367

Product description

In Germs, Genes and Civilization, Dr. David Clark tells the story of the microbe-driven epidemics that have repeatedly molded our human destinies. You'll discover how your genes have been shaped through millennia spent battling against infectious diseases. You'll learn how epidemics have transformed human history, over and over again, from ancient Egypt to Mexico, the Romans to Attila the Hun. You'll learn how the Black Death epidemic ended the Middle Ages, making possible the Renaissance, western democracy, and the scientific revolution. Clark demonstrates how epidemics have repeatedly shaped not just our health and genetics, but also our history, culture, and politics. You'll even learn how they may influence religion and ethics, including the ways they may help trigger cultural cycles of puritanism and promiscuity. Perhaps most fascinating of all, Clark reveals the latest scientific and philosophical insights into the interplay between microbes, humans, and society - and previews what just might come next.

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Author information

David Clark was born June 1952 in Croydon, a London suburb. After winning a scholarship to Christ's College, Cambridge, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973. In 1977, he earned his Ph.D. from Bristol University for work on antibiotic resistance. David then left England for postdoctoral research at Yale and then the University of Illinois. He joined the faculty of Southern Illinois University in 1981 and is now a professor in the Microbiology Department. In 1991, he visited Sheffield University, England, as a Royal Society Guest Research Fellow. The U.S. Department of Energy funded David's research into the genetics and regulation of bacterial fermentation from 1982 till 2007. David has published more than 70 articles in scientific journals and graduated more than 20 masters and Ph.D. students. David is the author of Molecular Biology Made Simple and Fun, now in its third edition, as well as three more serious textbooks.

Back cover copy

""Clear, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "Germs, Genes & Civilization" makes the case that infectious diseases have played a major role in shaping society. Clark argues that religion, morals, and even democracy have all been influenced by the smallest and most dangerous organisms on our planet. While you may not accept every argument, you will be stimulated, entertained, and enlightened."" Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., M.D., President, Stony Brook University, and former Director of the Midwest Regional Center for Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research ""Clark presents an insightful explanation of the invisible history all around us. He conveys the essential facts in a riveting and engaging manner that everyone, including the nonscientist, will find exceptionally interesting and revealing."" Michael C. Thomsett, author of "The Inquisition" """Germs, Genes & Civilization" is a fascinating and well-balanced account of how a wide variety of different kinds of microbes have influenced human evolution, culture, society, and even religious thought. Written for a lay audience, the relationships between genes and disease resistance and susceptibility are clearly discussed, and the book concludes with a sober assessment of what may be in store for us in the future."" Irwin W. Sherman, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Riverside, and author of "Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World" and "The Power of Plagues" The Stunning Hidden Interconnections Between Microbes and Humanity AD 452: Attila the Hun stands ready to sack Rome. No one can stop him--but he walks away. A miracle? No...dysentery. Microbes saved the Roman Empire. Nearly a millennium later, the microbes of the Black Death ended the Middle Ages, making possible the Renaissance, western democracy, and the scientific revolution. Soon after, microbes ravaged the Americas, paving the way for their European conquest. Again and again, microbes have shaped our health, our genetics, our history, our culture, our politics, even our religion and ethics. This book reveals much that scientists and cultural historians have learned about the pervasive interconnections between infectious microbes and humans. It also considers what our ongoing fundamental relationship with infectious microbes might mean for the future of the human species. The "good side" of history's worst epidemics The surprising debt we owe to killer diseases Where diseases came from... ...and where they may be going Children of pestilence: disease and civilization From Egypt to Mexico, from Rome to China STDs, sexual behavior, and culture How microbes can shape cultural cycles of puritanism and promiscuity

Table of contents

Preface xiii Chapter 1: Introduction: our debt to disease 1 Epidemics select genetic alterations 4 Every cloud has a silver lining: our debt to disease 6 Crowding and culling 8 The message of this book 11 Chapter 2: Where did our diseases come from? 13 Africa: homeland of mankind and malaria 13 Many human diseases originated in animals 17 Are new diseases virulent to start with? 24 Diseases from rodents 29 Leprosy is a relatively new disease 30 What goes around comes around 32 Chapter 3: Transmission, overcrowding, and virulence 33 Virulence and the spread of disease 33 Infectious and noninfectious disease 34 Many diseases become milder with time 40 Development of genetic resistance to disease 47 Hunting and gathering 56 How do microorganisms become dangerous? 60 Chapter 4: Water, sewers, and empires 67 Introduction: the importance of biology 67 Irrigation helps agriculture but spreads germs 68 The class system, water, and infection 69 The origin of diarrheal diseases 70 Cholera comes from the Indian subcontinent 71 Cholera and the water supply 72 The rise and fall of the Indus Valley civilization 74 Cities are vulnerable to waterborne diseases 76 Cholera, typhoid, and cystic fibrosis 78 How did disease affect the rise of Rome? 81 How much did malaria contribute to the fall of Rome? 83 Uncivilized humans and unidentified diseases 86 Bubonic plague makes an appearance 90 Chapter 5: Meat and vegetables 93 Eating is hazardous to your health 93 Hygiene in the home 96 Cannibalism is hazardous to your health 97 Mad cow disease in England 99 The political response 101 Mad cow disease in humans 102 Fungal diseases and death in the countryside 103 Fungal diseases and cereal crops 104 Religious mania induced by fungi 106 Catastrophes caused by fungi 109 Human disease follows malnutrition 110 Coffee or tea? 111 Opportunistic fungal pathogens 112 Friend or enemy 113 Chapter 6: Pestilence and warfare 115 Who kills more? 115 Spread of disease by the military 116 Is it better to besiege or to be besieged? 118 Disease promotes imperial expansion 120 Protozoa help keep Africa black 122 Is bigger really better? 123 Disease versus enemy action 125 Typhus, warrior germ of the temperate zone 126 Jails, workhouses, and concentration camps 129 Germ warfare 130 Psychology, cost, and convenience 131 Anthrax as a biological weapon 132 Amateurs with biological weapons are rarely effective 132 Which agents are used in germ warfare? 134 World War I and II 136 Germ warfare against rabbits 137 Germ warfare is unreliable 138 Genetic engineering of diseases 139 Chapter 7: Venereal disease and sexual behavior 141 Venereal disease is embarrassing 141 Promiscuity, propaganda, and perception 144 The arrival of syphilis in Europe 145 Relation between venereal and skin infections 148 AIDS is an atypical venereal disease 149 Origin of AIDS among African apes and monkeys 150 Worldwide incidence and spread of AIDS 151 The Church, morality, and venereal infections 154 Moral and religious responses to AIDS 155 Public health and AIDS 156 Inherited resistance to AIDS 158 The ancient history of venereal disease 159 Chapter 8: Religion and tradition: health below or heaven above? 163 Religion and health care 163 Belief and expectation 165 Roman religion and epidemics 166 Infectious disease and early religious practices 167 Worms and serpents 168 Sumerians, Egyptians, and ancient Greece 169 Hygiene and religious purity 171 Protecting the living from the dead 173 Diverting evil spirits into animals 175 Cheaper rituals for the poor 177 Vampires, werewolves, and garlic 178 Divine retribution versus individual justice 179 The rise of Christianity 181 Coptic Christianity and malaria 184 Messianic Taoism during the collapse of Han China 185 Buddhism and smallpox in first-millennium Japan 186 The European Middle Ages and the Black Death 187 The Great Plague of London 189 Loss of Christian faith in industrial Europe 190 Cleanliness is next to godliness 191 Chapter 9: Manpower and slavery 193 Legacy of the last Ice Age 193 The New World before contact 194 Indigenous American infections 195 Lack of domesticated animals in America 197 The first epidemic in the Caribbean 198 Epidemics sweep the American mainland 200 The religious implications 202 Deliberate use of germ warfare 203 Slavery and African diseases 204 Exposure of islands to mainland diseases 205 Cholera and good intentions 206 The issue of biological isolation 207 Spotted fevers and rickettsias 208 The origins of typhus are uncertain 209 What about the Vikings? 211 Chapter 10: Urbanization and democracy 213 Cities as population sinks 213 Viral diseases in the city 214 Bacterial diseases in the city 215 The Black Death 216 Climatic changes: the "Little Ice Age" 217 The Black Death frees labor in Europe 218 Death rates and freedom in Europe 219 The Black Death and religion 221 The White Plague: tuberculosis 223 The rise of modern hygiene 224 The collapse of the European empires 226 Resistant people? 227 How clean is too clean? 228 Where are we now? 229 Chapter 11: Emerging diseases and the future 231 Pandemics and demographic collapse 231 The various types of emerging diseases 232 Changes in knowledge 233 Changes in the agent of disease 233 Changes in the human population 234 Changes in contact between victims and germs 235 The supposed re-emergence of tuberculosis 236 Diseases are constantly emerging 237 How dangerous are novel viruses? 239 Transmission of emerging viruses 241 Efficient transmission and genuine threats 242 The history and future of influenza 243 The great influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 243 Disease and the changing climate 245 Technology-borne diseases 246 Emergence of antibiotic resistance 247 Disease and the food supply 250 Overpopulation and microbial evolution 251 Predicting the future 252 Future emerging diseases 254 Gloom and doom or a happy ending? 254 Further reading 257 Index 261