Episode 28: Smallpox Blankets


The story of smallpox blankets offered as gifts to indigenous peoples as a weapon of war is ubiquitous — but is it based in truth? And did our increased medical understanding of smallpox lead to its use as a biological weapon?  In this episode, we confront these questions and explore the history of biological warfare, smallpox, and medicine. Listen to all this, a new #AdamAnswers, and more in this episode of Bedside Rounds, a tiny podcast about fascinating stories in clinical medicine.

Sources:

  • Barras V and Groub G, “History of biological warfare and bioterrorism,” Clin Microbiol Infect 2014.
  • Carus W, “The history of biological weapons use: what we know and what we don’t,” Health Security, Vol 13, No4, 2015.
  • Fenner F et al, “Smallpox and its Eradication,” World Health Organization, 1988, Chapters 5 and 6.
  • Mayor A, “The Nessus Shirt in the New World: Smallpox Blankets in History and Legend,” J Am Folklore, Vol. 108, No. 427 (Winter, 1995), 54-77.
  • Mear C, “The origin of the smallpox outbreak in Sydney in 1789,” Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, June, 2008.
  • Skwarecki B, “What is the scariest disease?” PLoS Blogs, retrieved at https://gizmodo.com/what-is-the-scariest-disease-1653943826
  • Theves C, et al, “The rediscovery of smallpox,” Clin Microbiol Infect 2014; 20: 210-218.
  • Ranlet P, “The British, the Indians, and Smallpox: What actually happened at Fort Pitt in 1763?”, Pennsylvania history: 427-442.
  • Warren C, “Smallpox at Sydney Cove — who, when, why?” J Aust Studies, 30 Oct 2013