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1 Burnside Health and Medicine- History of Medicine

The Miraculous Fever-Tree: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World

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The Miraculous Fever-Tree: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World Cover

ISBN13: 9780060199517
ISBN10: 0060199512
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Cinchona revolutionized the art of medicine as profoundly as gunpowder had the art of war."

— Bernardino Ramazzini, Physician to the Duke of Modena, Opera omnia, medica, et physica, 1716

In the summer of 1623, ten cardinals and hundreds of their attendants died in Rome while electing a new pope. The Roman marsh fever that felled them was the scourge of the Mediterranean, northern Europe and even America.

Malaria, now known as a disease of the tropics, badly weakened the Roman Empire. It killed thousands of British troops fighting Napoleon in 1809 and many soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. It turned back travelers exploring West Africa in the nineteenth century and brought the building of the Panama Canal to a standstill. Even today, malaria kills someone every thirty seconds. For more than one thousand years, there was no cure for it.

Pope Urban VIII, elected during the malarial summer of 1623, was determined that a cure should be found. He encouraged Jesuit priests establishing new missions in Asia and in South America to learn everything they could from the peoples they encountered. In Peru a young apothecarist named Agostino Salumbrino established an extensive network of pharmacies that kept the Jesuit missions in South America and Europe supplied with medicines. In 1631 Salumbrino dispatched a new miracle to Rome.

The cure was quinine, an alkaloid made of the bitter red bark of the cinchona tree. Europe's Protestants, among them Oliver Cromwell, who suffered badly from malaria, feared that the new cure was nothing but a Popish poison. More than any previous medicine, though, quinine forced physicians to change their ideas about illness. Before long, it would change the face of Western medicine.

Yet how was it that priests in the early seventeenth century-who did not know what malaria was or how it was transmitted-discovered that the bark of a tree that grew in the foothills of the Andes could cure a disease that occurred only on the other side of the ocean?

Using fresh research from the Vatican and the Indian archives in Seville, as well as documents she discovered in Peru, award-winning author Fiammetta Rocco chronicles the ravages of the disease; the quest of the three Englishmen who smuggled cinchona seeds out of South America; the way in which quinine opened the door to Western imperial adventure in Asia, Africa and beyond; and how, even today, quinine grown in the eastern Congo still saves the lives of so many suffering from malaria.

Review:

"[E]ngaging....[I]nteresting and immediate...[Rocco] stirs in enough science to explain the how malaria and its cure actually work, making this a good choice for fans of memoir and science history." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"A seasoned, filigreed history of malaria and its treatment....Snappy and sharp, picaresque but scholarly: it's almost a crime that so heinous a disease should be treated to so grand a biography." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

Quinine: Jesuits hoarded it and Nazis invaded for it. This is the story of the ravages of malaria, the search for a cure, and the quest to steal and smuggle cinchona seeds out of South America.

About the Author

Fiammetta Rocco was raised in Kenya. Her grandfather, her father and she herself all suffered from malaria. Ms. Rocco's investigative journalism has won a number of awards in the United States and in Britain. She lives in London, where she is the literary editor of the Economist. This is her first book.

Table of Contents

Ch. 1. Sickness prevails - Africa — Ch. 2. The tree required - Rome — Ch. 3. The tree discovered - Peru — Ch. 4. The quarrel - England — Ch. 5. The quest - South America — Ch. 6. To war and to explore - from Holland to West Africa — Ch. 7. To explore and to war - From America to Panama — Ch. 8. The seed - South America — Ch. 9. The science - India, England and Italy — Ch. 10. The last forest - Congo.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Ashley Bowen-Murphy, January 3, 2012 (view all comments by Ashley Bowen-Murphy)
Perhaps this is a case of expecting a different book than the one the author wrote. I thought that "The Miraculous Fever-Tree" felt incomplete, poorly structured, and thinly researched. Rocco's first chapter made me think this would be part memoir, but I couldn't figure out why her family's history was especially relevant to the story of malaria and/or quinine. That information, presumably included to indicate that she's an "authentic" voice on the topic, should have been included in a forward or preface. The rest of the book moves unevenly through 400+ years of history and shifts between telling the story of quinine and the story of malaria. While I recognize that one is meaningless without the other, I felt that Rocco could have done a better job organizing these two parallel stories. She also doesn't explain the biology and pathology of malaria until the last chapters-- and never *really* explains how quinine works. She's clearly more comfortable in the history than the medicine/science portions of the story.

Finally, the book fails to problemitize colonization and the relationship between European scientists and colonial subjects. This oversight obscures an enormous component of the 18th and 19th century malaria research and motivation to find a cure.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060199517
Subtitle:
Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World
Author:
Rocco, Fiammetta
Author:
by Fiammetta Rocco
Publisher:
Harper
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Infectious Diseases
Subject:
Malaria
Subject:
Cinchona.
Subject:
Quinine.
Subject:
History of medicine, 18th cent.
Subject:
History of Medicine, 19th Cent.
Subject:
General History
Subject:
Malaria -- History.
Subject:
Quinine -- history.
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series Volume:
475
Publication Date:
August 5, 2003
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1.17 in 23.2 oz

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine

The Miraculous Fever-Tree: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World Used Hardcover
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Product details 368 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060199517 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[E]ngaging....[I]nteresting and immediate...[Rocco] stirs in enough science to explain the how malaria and its cure actually work, making this a good choice for fans of memoir and science history."
"Review" by , "A seasoned, filigreed history of malaria and its treatment....Snappy and sharp, picaresque but scholarly: it's almost a crime that so heinous a disease should be treated to so grand a biography."
"Synopsis" by , Quinine: Jesuits hoarded it and Nazis invaded for it. This is the story of the ravages of malaria, the search for a cure, and the quest to steal and smuggle cinchona seeds out of South America.

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