by Laurie Halse Anderson
Fever, 1793 Science Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I've heard stories of a fever among the Santo Domingan refugees. They live close to Ball's Wharf, you know."
A doctor at the next table looked up from his backgammon board and interrupted the conversation.
"It is not just the refugees," the doctor said. "This morning I spoke with a colleague who was called to the Shewall home. Mary Shewall died soon after of a bilious fever, and one could hardly fault her character. There may well be a disease in the air again. Yellow fever." (4.18-4.19)
Though rumors are spreading at the coffeehouse, the doctor there interrupts and tries to correct the misinformation. Notice, though, that his is only one voice in a crowd. What does this tell us about the way in which public opinion is formed?
As I cleared the dirty mugs off the last table, Grandfather stood deep in conversation with Mr. Rowley. I motioned to Eliza.
"Isn't he a doctor?"
Eliza shook her head.
"Not a proper physician, but he sees sick folk and prescribes medicines. All the real doctors are down on Water Street. It's been a terrible day there. They say bodies are piling up like firewood." (9.16)
Mr. Rowley, the first doctor to visit the Cook house, isn't even an actual doctor. What does this tell us about the state of the medical profession in the eighteenth century?
"But Dr. Rush says yellow fever is spreading everywhere," Eliza said.
"Dr. Rush likes to alarm people," Mr. Rowley replied. "There is a great debate about this pestilence. Yesterday a physician I shall not name diagnosed yellow fever in an elderly woman. Her family threw her into the street. She died, but she didn't have yellow fever. It was all a mistake. I sue the diagnosis sparingly. And I assure you, there is no fever in this house." (9.27-9.28)
The debate about the illness is raging and there are two sides: the Rush camp, who believe in purging and bloodletting, and the French, who think bed rest is best. What are the consequences of a hasty diagnosis of yellow fever, at least according to Mr. Rowley?