Smallpox was one of the deadliest diseases known to man. The reason I said “was” is that this disease has been conquered. Perhaps uniquely, this is the only infectious disease which actually has been conquered and killed totally. There are no smallpox germs anywhere in the world, except for in some laboratories. This disease has killed billions of humans down history, half a billion in just the last century itself. I like this story, the idea that a global problem has been resolved by human ingenuity, technology, global coordination, use of education, vaccination, and so on and so forth. Whenever I find that there is a global problem of poverty, climate change, lack of clean water or what have you, I just think about smallpox and how humankind overcame it and my enthusiasm and motivation come flooding back.
So when I read that a book on the history of smallpox based upon primary original research is going to be released, I picked up my camera and took off to the Wellcome Trust to hear the man himself. Not going to give much away other than to say that the book is pretty good for a non-fiction book, it provides a great view on the various doctors who checked out the disease. It reviews diaries, it talks about the rich and poor who died a gruesome death, it talks about how the anti vaccininists worked (there are still men who do not believe in vaccines in this day and age!), etc. Strongly recommended.
But as I said, I took the liberty to take some photographs of the book launch. So this is not a book review as such (although I have talked about it above), but is more a photo essay on the book launch at the Wellcome Trust. It was also a charity event as all proceeds of the book go to a charity.
When you come to the Wellcome Trust building, what you see outside is this torch with two snakes entwined. You might wonder where this is coming from. Well, the Wellcome Trust is a medical charity and snakes form part of the staff of Asclepius, the Greek God of Medicine. Although the fact that it has two snakes means that its a bit confusing as that is a staff of Caduceus.
A view of Euston Road from inside the building.
Lovely hanging lamps in the vestibule.
And a great little quote on a poster. Anyway, be that as it may, this building holds a library, offices of the charity, archives and other bits and bobs.
It also contains a small exhibition in the ground floor, a cafe and a bookstore.
The Book Store
First you have a set of photographs of pretty much standard gift stuff you find in a bookstore, notebooks, cups, skeletons (ha!) etc.
Book summaries. Horrible.
Here’s the book, nicely arranged.
They had small tables with olives and crisps discreetly arranged, I therefore discreetly arranged myself next to a convenient refreshment table and gobbled up some of these lovely little nibbles.
The great and good of British medical intelligentsia were here.
This gentleman is somebody great and good at the Wellcome Trust.
And then the author spoke for about 10 minutes, explained the amazing journey behind the eradication of smallpox, how luddites were against the vaccination campaign and thanked a very large number of people who had helped to make the book a reality.
Then he was going around signing the books and at one time, he was kneeling down to sign more. Lovely chap. So I turned around and decided to take off back home but took some photographs of two exhibits that were in the reception.
This was an extraordinary sculpture and positioning. And peek as I might, I could not see what it related to or who the artist was or what have you. Very interesting placement, eh? But the second sculpture by Silvia Petretti, which was made in wax mixed with one day’s dose of the chemicals in an Anti HIV medication.
This sculpture spoke to me, the tension in the body, the way the woman is lying, the stark glass box and floor. All makes it into a very poignant sculpture. Much more resources are being poured into the Anti AIDS fight compared to the smallpox fight, but mankind is slowly but surely winning the fight against AIDS as well. Gives me hope for the future. And here is the slideshow with more photographs.