Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Humanity Forgetting Terrible Diseases (& History of Tuberculosis)

Sanatorium for Tuberculosis patients

This blog post was inspired by the recent PBS documentary "The Forgotten Plague" (which concentrates on the history of TB, primarily in the United States).

It seems that recently, numerous diseases that we thought were "virtually wiped out", such as the whooping cough, and even polio, have revived in certain areas of the United States. This is primarily due to parents disallowing their children vaccination, and subsequently, protection from these life-threatening diseases.

One opinion of the cause of this is because humans, even within a generation or two, completely forget the horrible history of these terrible sicknesses.

I'd like to focus on one in particular, that was wide-spread and very common up until only the mid-early 1900s: tuberculosis, or "consumption" back when this disease was still common. The reason why it was called "consumption" was because a classic symptom was weight loss.

Although TB was thought to be hereditary, people also thought that fresh air and going outside in the wilderness could help reduce the symptoms. In fact, although there were many other reasons why people went out into the American West, one major cause was the fact that developers advertised how "being in the wilderness" and "going out West" can cure TB.

In 1882, the bacteria that caused TB was discovered, and was named "tuberculosis bacillus" due to its tuber-like shape. So, when people realized that it was not hereditary, and in fact contagious by being in vicinity with a TB-infected person, many special isolated places sprung up to house infected people, and most of these places were in the wilderness.

These places were called "sanatoriums", the first of which was founded by Edward Trudeau, who was also the American to first verify the fact that TB was in fact caused by a bacteria, by taking an excruciatingly long period of time to make the microscope, to adjust the room temperature to be exactly 36-37 degrees celsius for hours (which was extremely difficult back in the early 1900s).

Trudeau's "sanatorium" had grown in popularity in its name, and as a result, many more sprung up, including in Europe as well. All of these sanatoriums tried to mimic how Trudeau ran his sanatorium: patients needed to be in bed all day, eat enough food to be well, and surprisingly, and sitting outside on the porch for hours (even if it was freezing cold outside).

What Trudeau discovered is basically common sense today: that rest and relaxation helps your immune system fight against foreign bacteria.

Eventually, in 1943, the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered by Albert Schatz in order to effectively combat tuberculosis. Schatz painstakingly spent hours and hours getting samples of dirt from outside, and isolate all of the bacteria until he found one that was effective against TB.

And it's 2015 right now, only 72 years later, and most of us have forgotten about this plague - this forgotten plague. In an interview within the documentary with an elderly man who was still alive to tell us his stories about TB, he actually talked about his experiences within the sanatorium, and how his mom, his dad, and most of his relatives died from it. It was one day in 1943 when he was finally told that there was a cure, and lived to tell the tale due to this miracle antibiotic.

Unfortunately for us millenials, there are now many strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to streptomycin, and currently a combination of different antibiotics are used to treat tuberculosis. Perhaps in the near future, there will be even further resistant tuberculosis strains, and I am a bit scared by that, and of any other harmful bacteria that can develop resistance.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


I've recently created a new blog for my school's history club! Being the president/leader of this history club, I decided to do this in order to communicate and connect with the club members, and teach them some world history online instead of giving lectures only on a weekly basis.

Here is the link to the blog.

I hope you enjoy reading it, and hopefully follow it too. As of now, I only have three posts in it. These three are about: information about the history club, Columbus day, and a new potential human ancestor discovered - Australopithecus ramidus (a missing link?).

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Ardi - Oldest Fossil of Human Ancestor - Missing Link? (A personal response)

The recovered bones of Ardi, a female Ardipithecus ramidus.

The following personal response was for a school assignment. I hope you'll enjoy reading it though!

I believe that the discoveries of Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus female dated to be 4.4 million years ago)  and the related skeletal remains is an academic, scientific, and social triumphs of humankind. For many decades, Lucy has dominated the anthropological and evolutionary spotlight, but with the discovery of Ardi comes an enriching and exciting tale inside her bones. Because I am a fanatic about the sciences, I believe that with each academic accomplishment and landmark this field (including anthropology) achieves, humanity has reached a grand triumph.  With this amazing discovery, our specie can further unravel our evolutionary past and figure out what our most recent common ancestor was with our closest living relatives (the chimpanzees).

Since Darwin's publishing of On the Origin of Species, we humans have relentlessly attempted to unearth and precisely determine how we came to be, and how bipedalism first occurred. The discovery and analysis of these rare and scare fossils are, as said by Alan Walker, "far more important than Lucy", and that it reveals and brings into light new knowledge that we once did not possess. I, for one, am overjoyed about the discovery of Ardi due to its massive influence and potential to change existing knowledge in the area. Considering that the discovery of Ardi seems to have debunked the "savanna hypothesis" (which is a hypothesis that our ancestral species stood up due to the introduction of an open field grassland environment), and suggests many new theories on how bipedalism occurred, this finding will definitely influence the field of anthropology. 

To start, a unique aspect of this find is how many scientists believe, after analyzing Ardi, that her anatomy suggests bipedalism whilst on the ground and quadrupedalism whilst in the trees. This finding is as significant as the moon landing to me, considering how we can now attempt figure out, based on the findings, how the development of early bipedalism occurred. They have seen this in many of Ardi's bones. For example, the feet, pelvis, and legs seem to indicate bipedalism, and looking at her hands also promotes the idea that Ardi was a quadruped in the trees. However, there is controversy over this matter, considering that there was an argument that had particularly influenced me on the topic of bipedalism. This argument was about whether or not bipedalism was originally for the purpose of sexual intercourse and mating. Many experts say that factoring in the additional evidence of forensic odontology indicates that instead of having males fight over the female using their sharp teeth as weapons, the males win the female's heart by gathering foods for her by walking on two feet. This is significant because instead of the "savanna hypothesis", we now have another realistic explanation of bipedalism (considering that Ardipithecus Ramidus's environment was a moist woodland, not an open grassland).

Additionally, there are many other unique aspects of the find as well, which include: Ardi's close proximity to Lucy, the previous renown early ancestor (both were found in the Afar desert, which is not very surprising because the earliest human ancestor to have actually migrated out of Africa was Homo erectus), the remarkable preservation of Ardi's fossils in comparison to their actual age of them, how experts, finding other fossils of other specimens, determined that Ardi lived in a moist wetland environment, and how these skeletal remains laid to rest the guesses of many people about a half-chimpanzee half-human that would be our most recent common ancestor to chimpanzees.

If anyone wants to read a blog post that I've written about a newer human ancestor species discovered, please go to this following link.


Friday, 17 June 2011

The Influence of Roman Art

Just something I wrote because I'm a history fanatic...

The Influence of Roman Art

The Romans left a legacy and a colossal footprint in the history of humans. The times back then were prosperous, and are now considered the golden age of western civilization. However, as Alaric sacked Rome in 410 AD, it was the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire. The Dark Ages began, and people grew barbaric once more. It seemed as if all art, all intellectual creativity, had suddenly disappeared. Some notable figures such as Charlemagne have tried to break this barrier, yet all of them failed. It wasn’t until the Renaissance when the Dark Ages had finally come to an end, and creativity prospered. The Renaissance looked backed at the marvel of Ancient Rome, and its art. Many Renaissance artists and scholars dwelled upon the ancient works of the Romans for answers and creativity. In addition, after the Renaissance came the Age of Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries) and it was here where neoclassicism was born. Neoclassicism is the movement to bring Classical Roman and Greek art back into popularity.

You might think this is a Roman building. However, as the American flag suggests, this was built in the mid 1800s, more than half a millenium after the Romans. This is actually the picture of the Treasury Building in Washington DC. It is a good example of just how many cultures were inspired by the Ancient Romans.

Edit: I should have included a tidbit on how the Romans actually stole from the Greeks in terms of the architecture style, art, and culture. This written piece was for a report in my high school Latin class, however.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Report on an Artifact of a Roman Scutum

Edit: I accidentally deleted all my pictures from Picasa and don't know how to get them back. Sorry!

Sorry if this is the worst thing you've ever read... this is a short assignment I have to type up and hand in for my Latin class. I figured I should put this up on my blog since my last blog entry was about the ROM and the Roman and Greek exhibits :)

Roman Artefact – Scutum (Edges)

Rome was once the greatest empire of the world for over 500 years. In fact, during the reign of Emperor Trajan at 117 AD, Rome was at its peak, and the roman army helped this empire rule over 1/5 of the world’s population.
Roman military tactics were very top of the line back in their day, and revolutionized the way people fought wars. Their military tactics were simple, but work. Many battles were fought with centuries, groups of 80 men (later 100 men). In many battles, men had shields called a scutum, which were used for many tactical battle maneuvers– which is also the infamous Roman shield you see at every Roman military re-enactment. It is of an oblong shape, usually made out of wood (which is why there aren’t that many existing ones still around), and is of a similar size to a normal riot shield of today.

The Roman Scutum

This is the bronze edges from a Roman scutum. It is the artefact that I will be describing. It seems to be approximately 50 centimetres in length and about 1 ½ inches in width at the thinnest part in the middle, and 3 inches for the largest width near the ends. The ends were wider, probably due to the need of reinforcing the corners of the scutum. The ends were also probably used to put the bronze edge in place. The original texture of the artefact, were it not to have rusted and bent over time, should have been smooth because of its metallic composition. Since these edges are made out of bronze, they were made using a mix of copper and tin. A hollow shaft can clearly be seen in the underside of both of these bronze edges, to nicely put the actual body of the scutum inside.

            The purpose of the bronze edges is simple. It is to simply have a rim for the outer edges of the shield, adding more protection to the user. A metal edge for a shield would be preferable than a shield having wooden edges, because a slicing motion that an enemy might use towards the edge of a shield can easily break and slice wood. A metal (or specifically in this case, bronze) edging is designed to defend against such battle tactics.
            This artefact would have been found in many military Roman legions, as it was a great shield that protected its user well. In addition, it would have been in training grounds where Roman soldiers would have trained. This artefact reveals that Rome had a military – and of course, one of the largest militaries the ancient world has ever known. By knowing this, and from former knowledge about the Roman Empire, it has already become apparent that Rome expanded so vastly, mainly due to its need for more land for these retired soldiers. Fortunately, a modern variant of this simple yet effective shield is still in use. Many police departments have riot shields. This is because a shield of this size is more preferable when dealing with close-quarter protests/riots because of its larger area, which can protect the user more.

Many soldiers carrying these shields can form a tortoise formation, perfect for sieges. In Latin, this is called a tetsudo (meaning “tortoise”). The first row of men would have their shields upright, bending behind their shields, so as to show as little of their bodies as possible. The rows behind them would use their shields as a protective roof, guarding each other and the front row from any missile weapons, such as arrows. People who have been at a Roman military re-enactment might have seen this before.