• Log In
  • Sign Up
    • Somewhere here on cake, I came across an image - seen below - of a book about the mosquito, and I thought it might be an interesting diversion, if a bit obscure.

      Little did I realize, the book would cause me to rethink some basics of my understanding of the history of mankind, from prehistoric times, through the Roman empire, and the advent of Christianity in western Eururope after the fall of Rome. The author suggests that the moquito has participated in killing of half of all humans that have EVER lived on the planet.

      I am struck by how little thought had been given by historians to the significance of disease over the course of history - it is a known fact that in warfare, more troops succumb to infection and disease than the total loss due to armaments. But if this was true in WW II, imagine its significance on the Roman legions or the earlier armies of the ancient world. Yet almost countless generals, emperors of Rome, and Popes in Rome fell to malaria. How did I not know this at all.

      The author posits that the agricultural revolution, along with domestication of animals, was a strong contributor to the spread of the moquito, with its fellow travelers of M. vivax, faciparum and ovale - forms of malaria that spread north into Scotland, Sweden and Denmark, and ArchAngel in Russia, and all across Europe and Africa, as well as Asia, South America, and much of the US prior to the Civil War...

      The author, Timothy C Winegard, a professor at Colorado Mesa University, writes an engaging story, that offers the reader much to think about regarding the mosquito, malaria and other mosquito borne diseases, and humankind.

      I recommend the book highly for anyone with an interest in ancient history, medicine, and the effects of disease on human populations.

    • Those claims are so bold I wondered if they were exaggerated, but I can't find any critics via searching Google. Here's a fascinating history of the guy who wrote it:

      You'd like that his emergency room physician dad started him on the idea of the book. I liked that he has a military history background, which I think gives him so much unusual perspective.

    • Bill Gates would agree. He could spend his billions terraforming Mars or building flying cars, but he's doing the un-sexy thing of focusing on eliminating disease, specifically malaria, because it's the most effective thing he can do with his money. Well, that, and combat climate change with the decades-old approach of nuclear fission.

    • Yes, in reading his book, I was intrigued that so little has been said about the impact of malaria and other mosquito borne illnesses in typical historical references, especially in Roman history. Yet he lists pope after pope, and emperor of Rome after emperor, and numerous generals including Alexander the Great that succombed at young ages, and radically altered the thrust of historical trends as a result.

      Indeed, he posits that the mosquito and its microbial allies, have had profound effects not only on human evolution and genetic content - think Sickle Cell disease, G6PD deficiency and Thalassemia to name just a few - to possibly contributing to the fall of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Dr Winegard thinks large, and deep.

      A fascinating read that I, initially, approached with much more limited expectations. A really great read if you are interested in history - both ancient and more recent. He even discusses the impact of malaria in the US and its effect on the southern economy and slavery.

      I remind readers that the mosquito is the state bird of Alaska! Probably also of the northern Yukon Territory too. 😎

    • Reminded me of this passage from James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty:

      “All of us have encounters with death in our lives. It’s inevitable... There was, for example, the time I visited Patrice, who at this time was just my girlfriend, while she was in the Peace Corps in a remote village in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and I nearly died from contracting malaria. If she had not driven me in the middle of the night on the back of her motorcycle and literally dragged me into a remote hospital, I would not have made it.”

    • One might wonder if the genetic removal of mosquitos, as has been discussed a bit recently, might have some un-anticipated consequences.

      Like @Chris, I sometimes wondered if Dr Winegard was maybe exaggerating a bit, but the losses the British Army experienced in the Carribean campaigns in the 7 Years war, were horrifying - losses of 70-80% of troops to malaria and yellow fever, with maybe a 7-10% loss to actual combat wounds. Continenental soldiers would refuse to serve in the Carribean, accepting 100 lashes instead, even.

      Reading the book, I was intriqued to learn that George Washington suffered from repeated bouts of Malaria, first aquired at age 17 in 1749, for which he frequently used quinine.

      In May of 1775, shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord, he urged the parsimonious Continental Congress to buy as much cinchona bark and quinine powder "as possible". He fully understood the importance of malaria in defending the 13 colonies from the British Army, the members of which had little resistance to malaria, unless they came from the Fens in England.

      Just one of many little interesting facts presented by Dr Winegard.

    • Here's another -

      Anyone who has been to Trafalagar Square in front of the The National Gallery, has seen the statue of Nelson, the saviour of Britannia, for his defeat of the Franco-Spanish flotilla on October 21st, 1805. But his career began much earlier, commanding a small fleet in the Carribean along the Nicaruaguan coast during the Revolutionary war attempting to control an area of Nicaragua, called the Mosquito coast, to gain access to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. He landed with 3000 troops, and retreated out 6 months later, with 500; losses due to malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever.

      J R McMNeil is quoted as saying "Nicaruagua's mosquitoes killed more British soldiers than the Continental Army did at the battles of Bunker Hill, Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, King's Mountain, Cowpens, and Guilford Courthouse combined."

      Horatio Nelson had contracted malaria in India in 1776, and suffered with it the rest of his life. Admiral Nelson was a one armed, one eyed, malaria afflicted saviour of Britannia.