Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On Walter Reed and Yellow Fever

On Walter Reed and Yellow Fever: Born in Virginia 1851, Reed earned his first medical degree by age 18. He understood at an early age that treating patients for disease was important, but researching and finding the origins of particular diseases was supreme. After Reed joined the U.S. Army as a medical officer, he was named one of the first professors of bacteriology (which was an emerging clinical field at the time). When the Spanish-American War erupted in 1898, many soldiers started dying from yellow fever. There were two prevailing theories in the 1890s about how people became infected with yellow fever. One was that yellow fever transmitted through physical contact while the other was that mosquitoes carried the disease. Reed set up an experiment (in Cuba) to figure out how the disease spread. In two separate tents, Reed placed soldiers under different circumstances. One tent had bed-clothing from troops with yellow fever while the other had mosquitoes in it. Needless to say, the troops in the mosquito-laden tent came down with the disease while the others did not. It was a breakthrough in the field of virology, as blood had now become a primary culprit in the transfer of disease.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

On the Mau Mau Uprising

On the Mau Mau Uprising: From 1952 to 1960, groups of Kikuyu people known as the Mau Mau openly rebelled against British authorities in Colonial Kenya. As part of the larger decolonization process in Africa during the mid-twentieth century, the Mau Mau helped incite a significant shift in the power relations between European colonizers and their African subjects. Proximal causes of the Uprising were two-fold. First, the Kikuyu were becoming increasingly marginalized under the British. In an economic sense, this meant the Kikuyu were losing vast swaths of land to British settlers who wished to farm. Second, the British encouraged the Kikuyu to engage in wage labor (either on the farms or for the colonial railroads). And it was this kind of cultural chauvinism which led the Kikuyu peoples (Masai, Nandi, etc.) to start squatting on lands. As an open act of defiance, some of the Kikuyu (Mau Mau) began planning organized attacks against not only British soldiers, but also British settlers. These attacks blossomed into an outright rebellion by 1952, when the Colonial Governor (Evelyn Baring) declared a State of Emergency.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

On Quebec's Quiet Revolution

On Quebec's Quiet Revolution: In the 1960s and 1970s, the Province of Quebec underwent a series of trans-formative sociopolitical changes. For one thing, the Parti Quebecois (PQ) gained serious traction in provincial politics, which made the prospects of a sovereign, independent Quebec a distinct possibility.  As part of this sovereignist instinct, political leaders like Jean Lesage and Rene Levesque (pictured above) wanted the Province to have more direct control over industries like education and healthcare. Prior to the 1960s, much of those two industries were heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Two other major initiatives of the Quiet Revolution involved areas such as civil service and utilities. With civil service, politicians pushed for a provincial-wide pension system for public employees. And as for utilities, politicians sought energy independence with the increased development of Hydro-Quebec, which generates electricity for the entire Province.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

On Cell Theory

On Cell Theory: After modern compound microscopes became available in Europe during the 1600s, scientists used them to study everyday objects like shoes, teeth, plants, and wood. One such scientist, Anton van Leeuwenhoek from Holland, started as a lens grinder who was able to invent his own microscope. Another such scientist, Robert Hooke from England, began to document what he observed in a book titled Micrographia (1665), which contained a series of drawings and sketches that popularized the emerging science of microscopy. And even though these early microscopes could only magnify objects up to 300 times, these scientists were fascinated by what they saw. Yet it was not until the 1800s that anything tangible regarding "cell theory" became codified. In fact, it's usually two German scientists (Schwann & Schleiden) who are credited with formulating the basic pillars of cell theory (the idea that cells are the fundamental units of life). However, Hooke named them "cells," because they reminded him of where monks went to pray and sleep.

Monday, January 15, 2018

1970s New York City = Rock Bottom

1970s New York City = Rock Bottom: On the verge of financial collapse, NYC in the 1970s was not a place that you wanted to be. Known for its high crime rates, high suicide rates, widespread rat infestations, graffiti-plagued public transit, and political corruption, NYC had reached a low-point in its urban history. Facing bankruptcy, the city was able to secure a series of federal loans topping $3.5 billion. However, these loans came with strict stipulations such as drastically cutting municipal services, including buses, subways, libraries, and police/fire stations. Even NYC's teachers' union, headed by Albert Shanker, had to fork over as much as $150 million from its pension fund to keep the city afloat. Yet aside from financial problems, NYC had also garnered negative press in the 1970s for a variety of other reasons. Perhaps the most infamous was the police department's corruption scandal, which saw detective Frank Serpico testify about the need for vast reforms within the NYPD. Such reforms involved subjects like officer accountability, internal affairs investigations, and confidential informants.