- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Lyons Press; First edition (February 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0762760087
- ISBN-13: 978-0762760084
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,030,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Epidemic: A Collision Of Power, Privilege, And Public Health First Edition
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From the Inside Flap
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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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.
We can learn a lot by reading The Epidemic. Not just about the past, but about dangers that continue to threaten us today. Although we would like to think that the mistakes in Ithaca can't be repeated with improved government regulation and the protection of a modern judiciary, just stop and look around. Whether it is irresponsible oil and gas drilling, inadequate mine safety, or first responders breathing the "safe" air at Ground Zero, we cannot count on government regulation to ensure our safety. Money still talks, and it is only in retrospect that we can see the human cost. A free press and an informed public are still our best defense against corporate greed and irresponsible behavior.