Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body



Full of fascinating and bizarre cases of genetic mutation and irregularity, ‘Mutants’ is an amazing exploration of the human form in all its beautiful and unique guises. Why are most of us born with one nose, two legs, ten fingers and twenty-four ribs – and some of us not? Why do most of us stop growing in our teens – while others just keep going? Why do some us have heads of red hair – and others no hair at all? The human genome, we are told, makes us what we are. But how? Armand Marie…

The Great Manchurian Plague of 1910-1911: The Geopolitics of an Epidemic Di…



When plague broke out in Manchuria in 1910 as a result of transmission from marmots to humans, it struck a region struggling with the introduction of Western medicine, as well as with the interactions of three different national powers: Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. In this fascinating case history, William Summers relates how this plague killed as many as 60,000 people in less than a year, and uses the analysis to examine the actions and interactions of the multinational doctors,…

Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs



Tabloid headlines attack the binge drinking of young women. Debates about the classification of cannabis continue, while major public health campaigns seek to reduce and ultimately eliminate smoking through health warnings and legislation. But the history of public health is not a simple one of changing attitudes resulting from increased medical knowledge, though that has played a key role, for instance since the identification of the link between smoking and lung
cancer. As Virginia Berridge…

Perfection’s Therapy: An Essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I



Albrecht Dürer’s famous portrayal of creative effort in paralysis, the unsurpassed masterpiece of copperplate engraving titled Melencolia I, has stood for centuries as a pictorial summa of knowledge about the melancholic temperament, a dense allegory of the limits of earthbound arts and sciences and the impossibility of attaining perfection. Dubbed the “image of images” for being the most zealously interpreted picture in the Western canon, Melencolia I also presides over the origins of…