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Yellow Fever

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Editor’s Note: Stephen Fried is a journalist and bestselling historian. Read more >>

Philadelphia Fever

A disease that no one understood laid waste a major American city. Five thousand died in two months, and Memphis was never the same again.

In 1878, not long after Reconstruction ended, Memphis appeared likely to emerge from the ashes of Confederate defeat as one of the regal cities of the New South. Read more >>

Underschooled and ill-equipped, the men who attended the pioneers practiced a rugged brand of medicine—but they made some major advances all the same

At every step in the trek westward, America’s pioneers found an enemy more ubiquitous, more stealthy, and more deadly than the Indians, yet in our histories we tend to forget this dread opponent. It was, quite simply, disease. Read more >>

Yellow fever killed 4,000 in Philadelphia in 1793, and puzzled doctors ignored the real clue to blame “miasmata” in the air.

Late in the evening of August 21, 1793, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Philadelphia’s most prominent physician, sat down “much fatigued” to write to his wife to inform her that a “malignant lever” had broken out on the city’s water front. Read more >>

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