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Quinine: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World
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Quinine: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  194 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Quinine: The Jesuits discovered it. The Protestants feared it. The British vied with the Dutch for it, and the Nazis seized it. Because of quinine, medicine, warfare, and exploration were changed forever.

For more than one thousand years, there was no cure for malaria. In 1623, after ten cardinals and hundreds of their attendants died in Rome while electing Urban VII the ne
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 17th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published June 16th 2003)
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3.86  · 
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 ·  194 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Engrossing. For centuries, malaria played a pivotal role in ensuring mankind didn't get too full of itself, as explorers and armies and civilians died by the millions. When a papal election resulted in the deaths of ten malaria-stricken cardinals, a serious search for a cure began. This book takes the reader on a round-the-world journey to the tree that held the answer.

The author never loses the reader, as we learn about insects, flora, armies, empires, and leaders affected by malaria. For insta
After seeing all the four and five-star reviews for this book, I had very high hopes. 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 th ...more
John Gaudet
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Books about things that "change the world," are still popular and relevant to the non-fiction reader. A classic example is Fiammetta Rocco's, Quinine: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World (Harper Collins, 2003), a book that traces the history of quinine from its discovery in the 17th Century by Jesuit missionaries in Peru to its use by expanding European colonial powers and its role in the development of modern anti-malaria pills. The priests learned of the bark of the cinchon ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Rocco's book tells an interesting if somewhat disjointed history of the use of quinine to prevent and treat malaria and illustrates what a dramatic impact Plasmodium has had and continues to have on Man. The early chapters, which describe the Jesuit missionaries who brought the bark of the cinchona tree to the Old World, gave the cynic in me a greater appreciation for the fact that there were individuals within the Church who did great work in service of humanity. The narrative is peppered w ...more
I honestly wasn't expecting to, given that medical history books can often be incredibly dry, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. It's really well researched and engagingly written book that details the history of malaria and its natural cure, quinine, through the ages and around the globe. It gives a good balance of the medical and historical sides without feeling too dense or too detailed for lay persons to understand. And I particularly appreciated how the story came full circle, with the importan ...more
Nov 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read. Really, 4 and a half stars. I'm a fan of books that look through the lens of a commodity and give it it's historical due (Cod by Mark Kurlansky comes to mind). It's more fun to find out about how different societies and cultures view, understand, and intersect upon a given "thing" (eg cinchona bark). It makes for far more interesting historical writing than the mundane geocentric approach. Learn about how quinine was first "discovered" and put to use by the Fransiscan missionarie ...more
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book dives into the fascinating history of the use of quinine to treat malaria and how the disease impacted major world events over the centuries. From the election of Popes to Jesuits in Peru to power struggles in WWII Rocco shows how malaria and its treatment played more of a part than we realize. The author also takes pains to highlight the unsung heroes whose involvement in history has thus far been overshadowed by greed, jealousy or Euro-centric thinking. While the contents of the book ...more
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: misc-non-fiction
It's easy to get distracted by the major events, movements, and so-called "great men" of history. But tracing a small but significant series of events as Rocco does lends itself to fascinating reading.

I did not know much about malaria or quinine before starting this book: just that the miracle tree was found in the mountains of South America and that it "saved" the British Empire, and that attempts to synthesize the drug led to the first artificial dyes. And that quinine is an essential element
Anna Engel
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very accessible – and compelling – history of malaria and quinine and of their effects on the world. The author's historical research is amazing in its breadth and depth. She synthesized information from numerous primary documents (be still my heart!), as well as from many secondary sources. The result is an engrossing history that will appeal to nonfiction readers who enjoy science and/or history. (I enjoy both - win!)

I hadn't realized how extensively malaria reached geographically in
Sue Chaplin
While I found the book interesting I wanted to know more about how quinine actually worked much earlier. There is a short description towards the end. This throws up questions as to why the plasmodium does not seem to become resistant to quinine but it has done to chloroquinine which was a chemically produced drug.
There were some interesting points about several wars including WWII where the lack of quinine and malaria had more of an effect than I was aware of including a story about us invadin
Ali Barrah
Apr 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a very well written book about the history of quinine. I feel the author is correct in saying that quinine changed the world, for as everyone is aware malaria is the biggest killer in Africa and exploration could not have been done had quinine not been discovered, nor could the Panama Canal have been built. I was also fascinated to know that Napoleon used biological warfare against the British, and various battles were fought in the South Seas during WWII to gain control of quinine plant ...more
Mar 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Fascinating history intersecting disease, mosquitos, geography, botany, science, politics, and personalities. Who knew, for instance, that Union attempts to establish a bridgehead along the Atlantic coast were stopped largely because of outbreaks of marlaria, typhoid, and yellow fever? Or that Napoleon used his knowlege of malaria, or "Walcheren" to defeat the English: "We must oppose the English with nothing but fever, which will soon devour them all." Later, Napoleon would himself cause the wo ...more
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
The Jesuits were the bomb. They did a lot of damage, but remarkably, they were much better at business than they were at conversion--they always ended up somewhere and starting an apothecary and learning local treatments for everything. Only a portion of the book talks about that, but still, I had to mention it. Totally fascinating to read about this disease that still is a major threat in huge parts of the world and how little we've known about it and how to treat it for so long.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I think I'd find this book more interesting if I'd had malaria or something. It was a little too dry for me and I had a hard time following the timeline as it didn't seem to follow any type of order. I didn't end up reading it all the way through because I was so confused about where I was in time. The one thing that I did enjoy was learning more about the popes and how they tried to deal with the disease. I wouldn't recommend the book unless it's a subject that you're really interested in.
Oct 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Detailed account of the western civilization's "discovery" of how quinine can cure malaria and the ramification this had on future imperialistic pursuits. This book probably has a limited appeal to those with a background in biology, medicine, or history but it is well-written and an interesting read.
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An amazing and brilliantly written medical, environmental, and global history of malaria and quinine. Especially loved the Rome chapter, "From America to Panama," and the final chapters about establishing monitored forests for quinine production. If I taught a global environmental history course, I'd use this book.
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A read of interest for anyone living in Africa. This is an incredibly well written history of the discovery of Quinine the drug used to treat Malaria. This book read like a novel and had tons of great information.
Lissa Johnston
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable and informative. Admire the determination of the scientists working in primitive conditions to link the mosquito to the disease. Hope today's scientists make as much progress synthesizing and replicating the original remedy.
Suzanne Frank
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research
Fantastically well written. The intrigue of a novel with the content of detailed research, underscored by the author's personal experiences with malaria and quinine. Fascinating stories. Read it in one sitting.
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, science, history
I read this right after reading The Fever Trail by Mark Honigsbaum. This one is an easier read with personal stories intermixed with the history of malaria and the search for the cure. Rocco gives an overview of malaria - from the time of the Romans into today.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-nature
Very interesting.There were many stories, the priest on Bataan, for instance, which left you wanting to know more
Graham Crawford
I thought this was going to be really boring but it turned out to be a great read.
Jun 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
great, but didn't cover the chemist who was trying to make synthetic quinine and came up with a great purple dye.
Interesting reading - especially if you've suffered malaria
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Well done non fiction.
Amanda Witt
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good account of the difficulties early travellers faced and the lack of knowledge around how malaria (which is Italian for bad air) was spread.
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding look into the journey from tree to life-saving quinine and the perils men traversed to bring it to light.
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting history of quininine... and how its lack shaped historical battles while its use assisted with colinization.
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this while vacationing in Africa. I love to read books that are relevant to the place I am visiting while visiting... Suppose it made me enjoy the book that much more.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting perspective on a specific example of scientific/medical progress that has impacted all humankind. I really enjoyed the blending of science, history and a glimpse into basic human motivations. Good story, if a bit disjointed at times.
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