Published on May 25th, 2023 | by Chris O'Connor

Pathogenesis Book Review

Pathogenesis Book Review Chris O'Connor

Summary: Dr Jonathan Kennedy explores the impact germs have had on the history of the world, from the seemingly small scale to the global.


Pathogenic progress

Covid19 reminded the world of just how much of an impact a small thing can have. Whilst not unique (a common comparative was the unfairly named “Spanish” Flu from roughly 100 years earlier), it did bring home, to this generation, the devastation a tiny germ can cause. But as mentioned… this isn’t the first time such a large scale impact has been made by germs, Dr Jonathan Kennedy takes us back through time to examine how our history has been shaped by the microscopic world.

One of the benefits of modern science is being able to use new understanding to look back over old evidence and gain greater or even completely new information about the world we live in. In Pathogensis Dr Jonathan Kennedy does just that… looking back on some major changes in the course of history but from a different perspective than many of us are used to. Some of the biggest conflicts in the world, as Dr Kennedy explains, were not simply down to the military strategy or might of one side over another… but has, at many points, been arguably determined by one forces immunity or susceptibility to pathogens.

By examining the evidence that is now being uncovered via modern techniques (DNA extraction has advanced to a state that we can recover material from older and older remains and glean information about much of the life of the owner of said DNA), we can determine just how much of an influence germs have been in the history of humankind.

Dr Kennedy provides a lot of historic information to set the scene… then goes deeper and examines how infectious diseases left their mark on humanity. But not just through the well known events such as the bubonic plague (though those are covered as well), but through things such as malaria and yellow fever and their influence on the slave trade. The accidental and intentional introduction of germs from one group of people to the next and how that changed cultures, wiping out some and allowing others to gain strategic advantages.

Dr Kennedy brings all the historic evidence in to the modern world as well and looks at how germs affect us now, from zoonotic diseases that are becoming more common with the greater encroachment of humans into the animal world to the denial of health care based on socioeconomic standing. First world nations turning a blind eye to developing nations needs for medicines that are readily available but prohibitively expensive. We’ve come a long way but have a long way to go and throughout it all… pathogens have been exerting their influence.

If you have an interest in history and especially if you have an interest in pathogens… then grab a copy. It’s a fascinating read that looks at our history (and prehistory) from a new perspective that many won’t have considered and shows just how big an impact such tiny things can have.

About the Author'

Father of four, husband of one and all round oddity. Gaming at home since about 1982 with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Moving on to the more traditional PC genre in the years that followed with the classic Jump Joe and Alley Cat. CGA, EGA, VGA and beyond PC's have been central to my gaming but I've also enjoyed consoles and hand helds along the way (who remembers the Atari Lynx?). Would have been actor/film maker, jack of many trades master of none.

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