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Plague: A Story of Science, Rivalry, and the Scourge That Won't Go Away

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  81 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
“You thought the bubonic plague had gone the way of powdered wigs? Try again: It could happen anytime. Edward Marriott’s dramatic, gripping new book gives you yet another thing to worry about.” —New York

Plague. The very word carries an unholy resonance. No other disease can claim its apocalyptic power: it can lie dormant for centuries, only to resurface with nation-killin
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Holt Paperbacks (first published March 3rd 2003)
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(showing 1-30)
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Chris Demer
When I saw this book in the library, I almost didn't pick it up. I have read a lot about plague and thought it might not be very different. However, after checking out the summary, I took it home.It is a great read- almost like a novel. It is the true story of a plague outbreak in Hong Kong in 1894 and the panic misery and death that followed. Also the politics, the blame (mostly on the unhygienic living conditions of the poorer Chinese.)Trade and commerce almost completely stopped, houses and s ...more
Jul 14, 2009 Jeannie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was worried this was going to be written in technical terms and hard to understand but since the subject interests me so much I gave it a whirl. I learned more about the plague than I probably will ever need to know and found it a fascinating read. It was very informative on plague and the two men credited with isolating where it originated from. Delved into not only their professional lives but their personal ones and a pretty rounded out history of this dreaded disease that I know now lies i ...more
Aug 04, 2010 Myxini rated it it was ok
Not a bad book, but also not what I was expecting. The book focuses nearly entirely on the people involved in various plague outbreaks; on the doctors who discovered the cause, on the politicians who got in the way, and on a newspaper reporter caught in a recent outbreak in India. There is very little discussion of the disease itself, not much more information on plague beyond what you might find in a high school science or history book. I was thinking this would be similar to Carl Zimmer's book ...more
George Smith
May 25, 2012 George Smith rated it it was amazing
You probably think of Bubonic Plague as an ancient disease that disappeared long ago. Not so. This is a modern history of the disease, focusing on the great Pandemic that originated in Hong Kong in 1894. From Hong Kong, Bubonic Plague spread throughout the world to many places-including the United States It appeared in San Francisco at that time, for example. After reaching North America, Plague became entrenched in wild rodents in the American West. The result is that we have a few human cases ...more
Anne Hawn Smith
You would not think a book about two scientist competing with each other to find the cause of Bubonic Plague would be so interesting, but this was fascinating. Japanese researcher Shibasaburo Kitasato and French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin were in a race with time in Hong Kong in the late 19th century. Shibasaburo Kitasato was a brilliant scientist with a world wide reputation. He had a lab and funding to carry out his research in Hong Kong. Alexandre Yersin was on an extremely limited budge ...more
Mar 11, 2009 Susanna rated it really liked it
From the third person perspective, Marriott did a great job in narrating the plague in different parts of the world and the rivalry between two scientists.

A significant deliberation of the book was on the plague in 1894 Hong Kong. Marriott did a vast research on the people and the historical background of the area. Like in a trance, I found myself time-traveled to the imaginary black and white era and seeing things through his narration.

This is a good beginner's book for those who are interest
Apr 21, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the parallel stories of a modern day outbreak and the search for the bacillus and the source responsible for the plague. It is rather sad to me that Yersin likely never knew how truly his research was vindicated. Interesting to see that corruption and favoritism even negatively impacted scientific research in the 1890's. I enjoyed the whole book except the chapter about rats. That was freaky.
May 31, 2009 Fran rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: scientific types, lovers of history, non-fiction fans.
Recommended to Fran by: Funnily enough, it was in my own bookshelf
This book is an entertaining and scary look at plague, and how easily and recently it could be/ has been upon us again. Interestingly, I had read this book before, but didn't remember it until I had read a few chapters. And by then I was hooked enough to want to re-read it. The rivalry between the humble Swiss virologist and the lauded (and incorrect) Japanese scientist is fascinating, and the included photographs are a nice plus.
Lynne Pennington
Apr 15, 2016 Lynne Pennington rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A good read, easy and interesting----all on a pretty grim subject. A little bit of history, a bit of science, some sociology and politics, it's all here. For anyone who likes popular science and the history of disease, this is a great book. Even for someone who doesn't usually read science, this is certainly worth a try if one is at all interested in the subject. This isn't "Black Death" circa Middle Ages----it is plague circa 20th and 21st century.
Mar 08, 2015 Kimberly rated it really liked it
I thought the black plague was a thing of the past – but it isn’t. This book was very readable and I enjoyed the different story lines – the researchers trying to figure it out during an outbreak in the late 1800s, following someone during a more recent outbreak in the 1990s and some history interspersed. I had no idea there were plague outbreaks in the U.S. and it’s something that could theoretically still happen today.
Sandra Strange
Oct 01, 2009 Sandra Strange rated it really liked it
Who would guess that the story of two scientists vying in the 1890's for the honor of being the first to discover the bacteria that causes the plague would prove so dramatic! Well told, easy to read and mesmerizing, this book is a good read for anyone interested in science or disease.
Roseanne Wilkins
Jun 05, 2011 Roseanne Wilkins rated it it was amazing
This is about the discovery of how the bubonic plague is spread. It reads like a novel. The book left me wanting to know more about Alexandre Yersin, a fascinating person. Well written.
Mar 30, 2008 Reuel rated it liked it
A history of the 1894 Hong Kong plague.
Nov 13, 2007 ehnonymus rated it liked it
now i know that there are squirrels in northern california that have fleas carrying the bubonic plague, among other things. a pretty interesting read though.
Yvonne Ventresca
Apr 24, 2012 Yvonne Ventresca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is nonfiction but reads like a dramatic fiction. Fascinating.
Sonya Carlson
Jan 15, 2011 Sonya Carlson rated it it was ok
Not much science, only a slight rivalry, and not much information on the scrouge
Nov 19, 2007 Marie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in medicine, Asia, or history
Quite an interesting history of the black plague (focusing on later outbreaks in Asia and even the US) and the scientists who discovered the bacillus and mode of transmission.
Oct 09, 2014 Alyson rated it really liked it
Wish there could have been a little more detail about the impact of the Hong Kong research in the scientific community, but this is a very well written book none-the-less.
Jan 27, 2012 J rated it really liked it
Very interesting book.
Jan 05, 2011 Kalyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not heavy on the science involved - more character portraits and news-report-like descriptions of the plague incidents. Informative though.
Lily S
Lily S rated it liked it
Jan 16, 2017
Daniel McGovern
Daniel McGovern rated it really liked it
Feb 13, 2015
Wendy C
Wendy C rated it it was amazing
Nov 24, 2015
Alex White
Alex White rated it it was amazing
Oct 20, 2007
Armin rated it really liked it
Nov 14, 2008
Allison rated it really liked it
Jul 27, 2011
Evy rated it liked it
May 22, 2011
Thalia A. Swinyer
Thalia A. Swinyer rated it really liked it
Aug 13, 2015
Rmsteinberg rated it it was amazing
Nov 14, 2007
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