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Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of blog Poxblog.
For her first book, Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis, author Deborah Hayden conducted extensive research to explore the role of syphilis in history, including her thesis that it was introduced to Europe by the crew who sailed with Christopher Columbus. The author also examines famous historic figures, such as Beethoven, Flaubert, and Hitler, and the possibility that they had what was once called the "pox." According to Hayden, syphilis may account for some of these personages' unusual and disturbing behaviors because, in its latter stages, the disease affects the brain significantly. In her review in the New York Times Book Review, Natalie Angier wrote: "In the view of Deborah Hayden, syphilis has been vastly underrated as a force in shaping human history. It has been misdiagnosed, misinterpreted, dismissed and denied." Angier also noted: "The author does a fine job of introducing naïve, post-penicillin readers to the natural, social and political history of a plague that affected tens of millions of people over the centuries." Commenting on the author's analysis of the disease and the personages it affected, British Medical Journal contributor Gavin Yamey commented: "What Hayden manages to do so wonderfully is to find recurrent patterns of symptoms and behaviours in her subjects' lives that are best explained by syphilis." BookForum contributor Shelley Jackson felt that the book was "most interesting when tracing the early history of the disease." Other reviewers praising the book included A.J. Wright, who noted in the Library Journal that the author "has written a fascinating account." Writing in Booklist, Donna Chavez called Pox "an if-you-read-one-book-about kind of book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
BookForum, spring, 2003, Shelley Jackson, review of Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis.
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Donna Chavez, review of Pox, p. 825.
British Medical Journal, November 15, 2003, Gavin Yamey, review of Pox, p. 1173.
International Herald Tribune, January 11, 2003, Natalie Angier, review of Pox.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Pox, p. 1750.
Library Journal, February 15, 2003, A.J. Wright, review of Pox, p. 162.
Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2003, "‘Poison of Darkness’ under Microscope."
Medical History, July 1, 2004, Caroline Essex, review of Pox, pp. 387-388.
New England Journal of Medicine, June 19, 2003, Philip A. Mackowiak, review of Pox.
New Scientist, August 16, 2003, John Tyler Bonner, "Great and Raddled," p. 44.
New York Times Book Review, January 1, 2003, Natalie Angier, "Books of the Times: Feared by All, Even Giants and Tyrants," review of Pox, p. E24.
Publishers Weekly, December 9, 2002, review of Pox, p. 74.
Times (London, England), March 12, 2003, Mark Henderson, "Was Syphilis the Demon that Drove Hitler Mad?"
Mental Help Net,http://mentalhelp.net/ (March 22, 2007), S.V. Swamy, review of Pox.
Pox History Web site,http://www.poxhistory.com (March 22, 2007).