Do No Harm: Critical Race Theory and Medicine

In the winter of 1848, an epidemic of typhus ravaged Upper Silesia, a largely Polish mining and agricultural enclave in the Prussian Empire. Months earlier, heavy floods had destroyed large swaths of cropland, leaving the peasants to subsist on a paltry diet of clover, grass, and rotten potatoes. Weakened by starvation, they readily succumbed to infection. The Prussian authorities tapped a precocious twenty-six-year-old junior physician named Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow, at Berlin’s Charité Hospital, to perform the routine task of surveying the outbreak. For three weeks, Virchow travelled from town to town, observing that families of six or more often shared single room dwellings, turning homes into hotbeds of contagion. He noted the stigmata of the typhus rash — angry red spots that mysteriously spared the face and soles of the hands and feet — documented the nature of fevers, coughs, and diarrhea, and performed a few autopsies.  Virchow’s report

Thank you for reading!

To continue reading this article you must be a subscriber and be logged in to this site. If you already have a subscription, please log in now.