Epidemics of Graeco-Roman times: written for the Wellcome Medal and Prize in the History of Medicine
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In this the 20th. century we have in our possession the accumulated knowledge, written on stone,papyrus and paper, of the great investigators who have gone before. Many have died in their tasks in wresting from nature the secrets of the pestilential scourges so devastating to the society as a whole, creating in their train famine,demoralisation, death all too frequently being premature in youth,in men and women of distinction whether they be rich or poor and if the victim did not die left him or her with a disability which deprived them in many instances of happiness.The society is not now confined to the walled cities of Athens, Alexandria or Carthage, but has spread because of mans ingenious ways of travel to become a universal society. Thus too has the responsibility of man increased that he cannot afford to exchange his sword for the plough share in his own particular community, in his struggle against the microbe and say to himself 'my work is complete for my own kind'.To-day the traveller may eat his early meal of the day in one country and seek his rest in another some thousands of miles distant.So too can he carry disease into the remote corners of the globe either within his own body or within his brief case.Man must not only record the fluctuations of his own Population but also that of the animal vectors. His inter- national barriers must closely guarded and his laboratories kept well stocked with. vaccines.New techniques of investigation into the world of the microbe and virus can only add to mans security, the well being and happiness of the individual in his society.The experiences of the past must not go unheeded for as Immanuel Kant pointed out 'the truth is only to known by experience'.