On Miasma and Contagia

Cholera “Tramples the victors & the vanquished both.”
Seymour, Robert, 1798–1836, artist

Physician and anatomist Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle was born on July 9, 1809. He is credited for discovering the renal tubule that bears his name known as the Loop of Henle. His essay On Miasma and Contagia survives as an early argument for germ theory. Before bacteria and viruses were understood, diseases were thought to be caused by miasma, or “bad air.” The word comes from Greek mythology, where miasma seems to have been a cross between an…

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