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Sunday, November 12, 2006

# Posted 10:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"A SPIRIT, LOOKING OUT IN TERROR FROM A CORPSE":
A mid-nineteenth-century English newspaper report described cholera victims who were “one minute warm, palpitating, human organisms—the next a sort of galvanized corpse, with icy breath, stopped pulse, and blood congealed—blue, shrivelled up, convulsed.” Through it all, and until the very last stages, is the added horror of full consciousness. You are aware of what’s happening: “the mind within remains untouched and clear,—shining strangely through the glazed eyes . . . a spirit, looking out in terror from a corpse.”
That passage is from the New Yorker's excellent review of Steven Johnson's book "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World."

The history of science and medicine is a wonderful but underappreciated discipline. (It also tends to have the added benefit of being equally attractive to all political persuasions.) Enjoy.
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