Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race To Save America from the Bubonic Plague

Norton. May 2019. 304p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780393609455. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393609462. MED
Reuters senior reporter Randall (Dreamland; The King and Queen of Malibu) presents a little-known aspect of California history. In 1899, Chinese immigrants crowded into a corner of San Francisco's Chinatown were dying of a strange disease. Dr. Joseph J. Kinyoun (1860–1919), a brilliant scientist who lacked social skills and had been banished to San Francisco by an envious boss, used his expertise in the new science of bacteriology to identify the illness as bubonic plague. At that time, no treatment existed. Finding a way to avoid an epidemic was a necessity, but racism, belief in pseudoscientific theories, and politics were major stumbling blocks. Kinyoun stood alone in his fight while politicians and the head of the Chinese Six Companies, more concerned about economics than public health, sued him for attempting a quarantine. It would take years for his successor, Dr. Rupert Blue (1868–1948), and his team to discover the role of rats and fleas in spreading the disease.
VERDICT A wonderful page-turner featuring pioneering epidemiologists instead of spies, this is sure to please readers interested in the history of medicine and science. [See Prepub Alert, 12/6/18.]
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