FlyTitle: Pandemics of yore

Five books of science and history that cast light on covid-19


经济学人双语版-如何理解瘟疫 How to understand a plague

Pale Rider. By Laura Spinney (Public Affairs; Vintage). The Spanish flu pandemic that began in 1918 killed around 50m people in a few years—more deaths than in the preceding four years of world war. Young adults seemed to perish disproportionately from what was an especially virulent strain of the influenza virus. Doctors could do very little about the sickness, so countries closed their borders and blamed each other. This book tells the story not only of the devastation at the time, but also of the century of scientific detective-work that was required to understand why the episode was so deadly.


Spillover. By David Quammen (W.W. Norton; Vintage). Some of the outbreaks of disease that have caused most distress among human beings have come from animals. Other, non-human primates were the source of HIV; influenza transferred from birds, and coronaviruses from bats. When the human immune system is newly confronted with something that has just hopped the species barrier—a so-called zoonosis—it can be overwhelmed. By tracking the origin of several zoonoses, this book explains how such diseases emerge, why they are so dangerous and where in the world the next ones might arise.


The Rules of Contagion. By Adam Kucharski (Basic Books; Wellcome Collection). Today, the freedoms and daily routines of many countries are held in the hands of epidemiologists. Amid the pandemic, these mathematical modellers have supplied scenarios for how travel bans, social distancing or stay-at-home policies could alter the trajectory of covid-19. This book charts the history of this now-pivotal science, from its origins in understanding the spread of malaria at the turn of the 20th century, to its central role in predicting the dissemination of everything from diseases to fake news in the 21st.

《传染的规律》,亚当·库查尔斯基著(Basic Books出版社;卫尔康收藏馆)。今天,许多国家的自由和日常事务都掌握在流行病学家手中。在眼下这场大流行病中,这些做数学建模的人给出了种种模拟场景,演示旅行禁令、社交隔离或让人们待在家中的政策如何改变新冠病毒的发展轨迹。这本书记录了这门目前处于核心位置的科学的历史——从它起源于20世纪初对疟疾传播的探究,到21世纪它在预测从疾病到假新闻等各种事物的传播中起到的核心作用。

A Journal of the Plague Year. By Daniel Defoe (Oxford University Press). A diary of one man’s life in 1665, when the bubonic plague swept through London, killing almost 100,000. The book recounts the progress of the disease as it transforms the city, describing streets that are either eerily empty or filled with the sounds and smells of suffering. Defoe was only five in 1665 and wrote the book, which blends historical detail and imagination, more than 50 years after the event. He is thought to have based it on the contemporaneous diaries of his uncle, Henry Foe.

《瘟疫年纪事》,丹尼尔·笛福著(牛津大学出版社)。这是一个人在1665的生活日记。当时腺鼠疫席卷伦敦,造成近10万人死亡。这本书讲述了这种疾病如何一步步改变了城市。书中描画的街道不是空旷得可怕,就是充满了苦难的声音和气味。1665年笛福仅五岁,这本书是他在50多年后写下的,其中有历史细节,也有想象。一般认为他的记述是基于他叔叔亨利·福(Henry Foe)在那个时代的日记。

The End of Epidemics. By Jonathan Quick and Bronwyn Fryer (St Martin’s Press; Scribe). Published two years ago, this book’s simple message ought to have been more widely heeded: planning, preparation and open communication count for everything when it comes to ameliorating the vast social and economic damage that a new infection can cause. Using insights from previous outbreaks, the authors offer lessons on how global institutions can best co-ordinate to predict, model and prevent future pandemics. ■