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Disease and Destiny

JAMA. 1936;107(3):235. doi:10.1001/jama.1936.02770290063024.
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Dr. Major's thesis is that disease whether affecting a single individual or great numbers of men may have a profound influence on subsequent events. The diphtheria that strangled George Washington, the smallpox that caused the death of Louis XV, the syphilis that wrecked the brain of Nietzsche had results as definite as had the bullet that took the life of Abraham Lincoln or the daggers that ended the career of Julius Caesar. The mass destruction of peoples by plague, malaria, yellow fever changed the history of cities or even of nations; at times the effects were world wide in extent. The diseases discussed by the author are familial hemophilia and nine parasitic diseases—plague, typhus, tuberculosis, smallpox, diphtheria, malaria, leprosy, yellow fever and syphilis. Dr. Major knows his subject. He is a practitioner, teacher, investigator, and an ardent student of the history of medicine. He is not satisfied to be a


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