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Epidemic: A Collision Of Power, Privilege, And Public Health Hardcover – February 1, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0762760084 ISBN-10: 0762760087 Edition: First Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Ithaca's typhoid outbreak was nearly forgotten after more than a century, but last year author David DeKok's book "The Epidemic" was published. In the fashion of gripping fiction, DeKok tells the true story with stunning detail.
--Food Safety News, April 4, 2012.

From the Inside Flap

The Epidemic tells the story of how a vain and reckless businessman became responsible for
a typhoid epidemic in 1903 that devastated Cornell University and the surrounding town
of Ithaca, New York. Eighty-two people died, including twenty-nine Cornell students. Protected by influential friends, William T. Morris faced no retribution for this outrage. His legacy was a corporation—first known as Associated Gas & Electric Co. and later as General Public Utilities Corp.—that bedeviled America for a century. The Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 was its most notorious historical event, but hardly its only offense against the public interest.

The Ithaca epidemic came at a time when engineers knew how to prevent typhoid outbreaks but physicians could not yet cure the disease. Both professions were helpless when it came to stopping a corporate executive who placed profit over the public health. Government was a concerned but helpless bystander.

In this emotionally gripping book, David DeKok, a former award-winning investigative reporter
and the author of widely praised books on the mine fire that devastated Centralia, Pennsylvania, brings this tragedy home by taking us into the lives of many of those most deeply affected.

For modern-day readers acutely aware of the risk of a devastating global pandemic and of the dangers of unrestrained corporate power, The Epidemic provides a riveting look back at a heretofore little-known, frightening episode in America’s past that seems all too familiar.Written in the tradition of The Devil in the White City, it is an utterly compelling, thoroughly researched work of narrative history with an edge.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; First Edition edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762760087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762760084
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,227,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David DeKok has been reporting on the Centralia mine fire for more than thirty years. While at the News-Item in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, from 1975 to 1987, he wrote more than 500 stories about Centralia's plight. His first book on the subject, Unseen Danger, was published in 1986. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Phil on January 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The flowering of institutionalized corporate crime at the end of the 20th century is often so opaque and obscured, it is sometimes impossible to see in which of many the blind alleys and shadows the tracks of the culpable may reside. Early in the 20th century, however, the nefarious and their misdeeds were easier to illumine. In Ithaca, if we had to have plutocrats, the Tremans seemed benign enough, though no less haughty and imperious. Their name adorns bucolic state parks and beautiful marina lands. The mass murder that took place in Ithaca in 1903 - the instrument of which was an entirely avoidable typhoid epidemic - is traced in THE EPIDEMIC with pellucid clarity to a self-protecting cadre of Cornell administrators, patricians such as the Tremans, and a more basic kind of crook fueled by moneylust. Tales of crime are often reframed as mysteries, yet this one was replete with purple drama from the beginning, involving crooked deals of a upper class brotherhood, a broad pathos of needless deaths, the first unmasking of truths buried for nearly a hundred years, and a redefinition of the elements of social welfare. This book gallops along with the engaging and rhythmic pace of a Wilkie Collins crime or suspense novel, though the heart of the story has more in common with the dark malice of a tale by Poe.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jim Harris on January 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Epidemic opens with a juxtaposition of the survivors and the final victim of the Ithaca, NY typhoid epidemic. The cause of the epidemic was no doubt a crime of negligence that could be laid at the feet of many, but, in keeping with the culture of laissez faire justice, was ultimately placed upon the victims.

Although DeKok's book is filled with characters easily recognizable from history, both at the time of the incident and through their subsequent roles in industry and government, it is not a story about these historic icons. The Epidemic is a story about the many people who became victims of the greed, incompetence, and dishonesty of an irresponsible businessman, and a group of people intent upon protecting the reputations and the privilege of their own kind.

As the story unfolds, DeKok points out numerous missed opportunities that could have prevented or curtailed the loss of life through simple measures. As the epidemic took hold in the Ithaca and Cornell communities, it was met with inadequate half-way measures which seemed more designed to obviate blame than to effectively counter the spread of disease.

In a sub-plot to the actions of the water company, the university, and the city government, DeKok draws on his career as an investigative reporter to assess the role of the press in reporting the epidemic. We see a tale of two papers, The Ithaca Daily News and The Ithaca Daily Journal. The publisher of the Daily News, Duncan Campbell Lee, demonstrated the courage to risk his fortune and career to report the story of the typhoid epidemic honestly and openly. The Daily Journal by contrast, despite occasional forays into the truth, seemed content to support the self-serving myths of the water company and the university administration.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca B. Boone on February 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a well researched history of the outbreak of typhoid in Ithaca, New York, in the early 1900's. As a reader interested in man-made disasters, I found "Epidemic" to be an intriguing story of villains and victims. From the beginning of the book, the author draws you into the lives of the Ithaca "upper crust" and their disregard for the safety of the citizens of Ithaca. At the time, many of the regulations that are now in place to avoid such catastrophes as tainted water, were not yet on the books. People needlessly suffered and many died, their families having no legal means of bringing the water company responsible for their tragedy to justice. The book also includes a fascinating history of Cornell University as well as Andrew Carnegie's role in assisting those college students who, without health insurance, were in serious debt because of their illness due to typhoid. The author has promised that this book is first in a trilogy. I look forward to reading his next book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having grown up in Ithaca and as a former mayor, I found the book extremely interesting and knowledgable about the city, university, class structure and the politics of the day. I will inform interested relatives and friends about this book and recommend their reading this piece of documented history as a "must read" and a book to be handed down to their children so they can better understand how life in Ithaca was in the early 1900 hundreds.
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