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Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria? Paperback – September 30, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (September 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156005859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156005852
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A epidemiological history, this book looks at tropical diseases that were able to thrive in temperate North American climates. Occurrences of malaria in New York City in 1993 are enough to make one want more quinine water in those gin and tonics." -- Chicago Sun Times

"If I ruled the world, Desowitz's book would be required reading for all medical and public health students, because their course loads, bursting with molecular genetics and health policy, leave no nightmares of microbial Armageddon." -- The Los Angeles Times

"Like stephen Jay Gould and Lewis Thomas, Desowitz manages to make the basic principles of his subject immediatley comprehensible to the general reader." -- The New York Times

About the Author

Robert S. Desowitz is a contributor for the following Houghton Mifflin Company Title: Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria?

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on February 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, what is pinta, anyway? It's one of four diseases caused by the trypanosome that also causes syphilis and yaws. The Indians gave it to the Spaniards. It was a poor trade, as in exchange they got smallpox, yellow fever and a lot of other unpleasant sicknesses.

Anticolonialist literature -- is there any other kind these days? -- always labels these as "European" diseases, although as the historian William McNeill said long ago, most are from Africa.

The most important fact to carry away from Professor Desowitz' "Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria?" is that "tropical diseases" are not tropical. This is especially so for the worst killer of them all, malaria, which has been Desowitz' lifetime research specialty. Desowitz and I both live in Hawaii, which does not have malaria. The reason is not that Hawaii is too cold.

The reason this is important is that the dishonest anti-global warming campaign makes much of the threat that in a warmer world, tropical diseases will move north, where tree huggers who don't give a hoot about 2 million deaths a year from malaria might then have to suffer themselves. True, at least half those 2 million are black, but I think we should count them anyway.

Although that is the most important lesson a reader can carry away from this book, given the fact that global warming has assumed a prominence in public debate that it did not have even as recently as 1997, when this book was published, that is not the lesson that Desowitz is hammering, in this and other books. (See my review of his "The Malaria Capers.")

He has several. One is the way research money is heaped on trendy topics (molecular biology) while traditional and very effective areas -- including his, parasitological epidemiology -- are starved.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "mikeu3" on June 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Desowitz's Who gave Pinta to the Santa Maria? (published in other countries under the less silly title of "Tropical Diseases") deals with the spread and treatment of a number of infectious diseases, with emphasis primarily on yellow fever and malaria in North America. The book approaches its subject from a primarily historical standpoint--the chapters are arranged in terms of chronology rather than by disease, and the biological details of the diseases are only discussed to the extent that they're necessary to understand what was happening historically.
Desowitz's treatment of the subjects he chooses is generally very good. His style is friendly and readable without particularly ever seeming to be too drawn out, and as a nonspecialist I feel like I learned a fair amount from the book. It's also very interesting, and a bit disturbing, to read Desowitz's speculations about what lies ahead for infectious diseases in the new century. However, the scope of the book is a little narrower than I would have liked. A number of diseases often viewed as "tropical" in origin--cholera immediately comes to mind--are mentioned only in passing. Also, with the exception of a brief chapter about England, it seems like the only times the book ventures outside the U.S. and its territories (which included Cuba after the Spanish-American War, where the transmission vectors for yellow fever were discovered) is to discuss the efforts of the U.S.-based Rockefeller Foundation. There are a lot of places in the world where infectious diseases are still killing many people, and a number of organizations not based in the U.S. that are working tirelessly to do something about it--it seems like at least a chapter devoted to this would have been in order.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most captivating books on disease written. The facts in this book are far more interesting than any fiction written on the same subjects. Robert S. Desowitz does an excellent job of explaining these topics for those unfamiliar with tropical disease and epidemiology, but doesn't make the book boring for those with a vast knowledge in this area. This is a must read for anyone interested in parasitic diseases.
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