Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A New London Walk: Lepers & Leeches

With the new season upon us, and the new London Walks website just around the corner, David's been blurbing furiously. How about this one, coming soon, Lepers & Leeches (!)…

Title: Lepers & Leeches - Guided by a Public Health Physician

Short version. Physician-guided Medical Bloomsbury & St. Giles Tour

Long version. Like a ward in a hospital. Dr. Barry's making the rounds. Heroically. Not least because this is St. Giles (and Bloomsbury). St. Giles was the patron saint of lepers and cancer patients and disabled people and epileptics and the mentally ill and the sterile. To say nothing of outcasts, beggars and poor people. Gives you a feel for the neighbourhood's past, doesn't it – it wasn't called St. Giles for nothing. So, pilgrims and medical students and the merely curious, what have we got here? We've got mental illness (she's Dr. Barry's most famous patient). 

We've got "dephlogisticated air." We've got the physical and mental havoc wrought by duelling. We've got the London School of Hygiene. We've got appalling, beknighted, crippling male chauvanism. We've got the medically misguided (a miasmatist, for example) – no shortage of them. We've got Jenner and Blossom the cow and the Boy Phipps. 

We've got depictions of all the vectors of disease – incluing Aedes aegypti, which is busy spreading the Zika virus at the moment. We've got "mothers' ruin." 

We've got bubonic plague. We've got gaol fever. And, yes, we've got leprosy – it's a historical memory for us but horrifyingly alive in Burma and elsewhere. And Dr. Barry being Public Health Physician Dr. Barry this isn't just a freak show. It's serious science, serious medicine, serious epidemiology. Serious science, serious medicine, serious epidemiology that this Public Health Physician guide contexts all the time – the reflection, for example, that food and medicines are at risk because 20 percent of plant species are facing extinction. 

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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