IF PAST IS PROLOGUE: The Plague Last Time

Thursday, October 29, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

YersPieter Bruegel the Elder, Triumph of Death, c. 1562inia pestis, the plague bacterium, has emerged at key moments in history. Join us for a discussion, relevant to our time, of how pandemics due to a single bacterium swept the world three times - in antiquity, in the Middle Ages, and at the turn of the twentieth century - affecting different societies but triggering similar responses, changing the body politic! 

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Triumph of Death, c. 1562

As the Justinian Plague (541 AD) it shook the Roman and Persian empires and as the Black Death (1347) it emptied feudal estates of serfs. Its reemergence in the 1890s drew microbiologists to East Asia, where they competed to develop vaccines and cures, even as public health authorities tried to keep plague from spreading and commercial interests downplayed its existence.


Smith Alumnae Gale Eaton ‘69, Ph.D., and Marguerite Vigliani, ’70, MD, will explore how Yersinia pestis, the plague bacterium, changed the course of western history more than once, drawing on their course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Rhode Island. Recurring at such long intervals, plague offers a unique historical perspective on the impact pandemics have exerted on politics, economics and social structure, as well as examples of how they are spread by trade, wars, and animal vectors, and how they may be stopped or at least slowed by public health measures, the development of vaccines, and eventual herd immunity.

About Gale Eaton ‘69
Gale Eaton, Ph.D. (UNC/Chapel Hill, 1990), professor emerita and former director of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island, is the author of A Story of Civilization in 50 Disasters (IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, silver) and co-author of A Story of Medicine in 50 Discoveries. She joined the URI faculty after 15 years as a Massachusetts librarian and has also published journal articles and two academic books, Well Dressed Role Models: The Portrayal of Women in Biographies for Children and The Education of Alice M. Jordan: Navigating a Career in Children’s Librarianship. The RI Coalition of Library Advocates gave her its lifelong achievement award in 2012. 

About Marguerite Vigliani ‘70
Marguerite Vigliani, MD (Drexel, 1976), clinical professor emerita of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Alpert Medical School, Brown University, is the co-author of A Story of Medicine in 50 Discoveries. A private solo OB/GYN practitioner for more than 30 years, she has authored medical case reports and clinical opinions for peer-reviewed journals and taught medical students, residents, and fellows in OB/GYN. Appearing multiple times in the Rhode Island Monthly’s “Top Doctors” listing, she has also received awards and recognitions from the RI Women’s Political Caucus, the RI Medical Women’s Association, the American Medical Women’s Association, and others.

Topic: IF PAST IS PROLOGUE: The Plague Last Time
Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020
Time: 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM (EDT)

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Limit: 100 participants
Free of charge for members and non-members
You must be registered before 3:00 PM on Thursday, October 29, 2020, to join the event.
The Zoom link and password details will be shared the day before and again on the day of the event.