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Books from the Past Warning Us of the Present

Hot Zone by Preston & Blood Work by TuckerGuest Post by Leland Davidson

As COVID-19 has ravaged this world effecting many emotionally and physically, the emotions of how governments are handling are telling as well. Two books show a serendipitous attitude we are dealing with today as a society, while also showing history repeating itself.

One of these is The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, which gives a in depth story and research on Ebola. The book is based around different stories detailing where it came from, how it spread, and close call to a pandemic that almost ravaged the United States. What makes this book so chilling are the stories that took place in the 1980s and 90s in the continent of Africa and United States, but are detailed examples of what we are seeing today. These stories range from the beginning of the disease’s origins showing how messing with nature can cause a pandemic, or how nonuse of safety measures will help spread the disease. This book is a chilling narrative of how history, disease, and panic is not new, which should be a lesson for all.

Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker details the history of blood transfusion in England and France in the 1600s, going into detail of its history and the people involved in its transformation. Showing medical science experiments of the time may seem crazy today, but it is still relevant in modern thinking. With current news stories of people selling snake oils or ways to cure COVID-19, we see similarities in the core belief of the time that blood from a cow transfused with a sheep will make a monster. The book shows how scientific, political, and religious clashes of the 1600s mimic today’s clashes. Tucker details the narrative that stopping science and medical experiments will not only stop breakthroughs but keep humans in the dark instead of forward thinking to a better life.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. Penguin Random House, June 1999.
Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker. W. W. Norton & Company, May 2012.

Reviewer bio: Leland Davidson, a native of East Tennessee, holds an M.A. in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence from Heller School at Brandeis University, 2020.

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