Graham School Events

Pandemics In History: A Lecture Series with Professor Michael Rossi: Cholera and the Rise of Public Health


A virtual lecture series with Professor Michael Rossi hosted on Zoom.

microscopic image of a virus

Join us for Part Two of our four-part lecture series.

Today we find ourselves in what seems to be a new historic moment. COVID-19 has not only taken lives, but its menace has spawned profound changes in social and cultural practices across the globe, from facial coverings to social distancing. But coronavirus is not the first pathogen to threaten the human species. In this series, Michael Rossi, Assistant Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Chicago, will explore four pandemics—bubonic plague, cholera, influenza, and HIV-AIDS—that have likewise challenged human beings and transformed the ways that we have lived, worked, loved, and clashed. 

Investigating these historical episodes will offer participants a new vantage point to reflect upon the novelty of our present circumstances, as well as to consider the ways we are traveling well-trodden pathways that have long linked disease to the human experience. 

Offered remotely and free of charge by the University of Chicago Graham School, these four Wednesday sessions will combine live lectures by Professor Rossi with moderated discussions on short, pre-distributed readings.  

Registration is required. Curiosity and good will is expected. A certain sobering enrichment is anticipated, as is an appreciation for the hope and will to live that have guided people through time.



Cholera and the Rise of Public Health

Little known before the nineteenth century, cholera encircled the globe in a series of pandemics that spanned the nineteenth century. In response, communities, municipalities, and nations drew on new medical ideas — not least of all germ theory and sanitation — to defend themselves. This was one of the first times that scientific medicine and political administration had combined to fight epidemic disease, and its practice changed ideas both of “the public” and of “health.”

Download the pre-reading for the lecture 



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