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Disease on the Internet

Posted by David Mehegan  February 6, 2008 02:17 PM

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Cotton Mather (1663-1728)

Harvard's Open Collections Program in January launched a new project, "Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics." The program opens more than 500,000 scanned pages of historic books and documents on the subject of public health, from Harvard's various libraries and collections. View it here. An email from Peter Kosewski, director of publications and communications for the library system, says, "the goal is to contribute to the understanding of the global, social-history, and public-policy implications of disease and to offer important historical perspectives on the science and the public policy of epidemiology today."

One fascinating section in the collection is called "The Boston Smallpox Epidemic, 1721." While Puritan divine Cotton Mather (1663-1728) advocated inoculation to prevent the disease, he was furiously opposed by most physicians, who feared the method would only make the epidemic worse. One impassioned anti-inoculaton pamplet was by prominent local doctor William Douglass, entitled, "The Abuses and Scandals of Some Late Pamphlets in Favour of Inoculation of the Small Pox." Read the original, in brilliant color, as if you were holding it in your hands.

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