Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 13-August-2010, Vol 123 No 1320
Caribbean Diseases: Doctor George Low’s Expedition in 1901-02
Gordon C Cook. Published by Radcliffe Publishing, 2009. ISBN-13: 9781846193453. Contains 238 pages. Price £65
George Carmichael Low (1872–1952), following a distinguished undergraduate and early post-graduate career, joined Dr (later Sir) Patrick Manson in 1899, in the newly-founded London School of Tropical Medicine.
The letters paint a picture of a man, with unbridled energy, unravelling the mysteries of disease transmission. Letters 25–28 give his accounts of an outbreak of severe jaundice at Castries, St Lucia. Not yet 30 years old and inexperienced in disease prevention, Low showed remarkable maturity in the measures he introduced. Was it malignant malaria (P. falciparum) or yellow fever? Low’s careful analysis showed clear evidence that this outbreak involved both malaria and yellow fever. These letters alone make reading the book well-worthwhile.
In addition to the letters, Cook summarises the considerable contributions Low made to scientific knowledge and disease prevention that resulted from his Caribbean experience.
Cook asks the question, ‘Why so little is known about George Carmichael Low?’ In his lifetime, Low was a towering figure in the field of tropical medicine. However, Cook asks the question: ‘Why was Low underrated both then and now?’ Living in the shadow of Manson was certainly not helpful. In his book, Cook has done much to right this.
This book will be of interest to historians, especially of tropical medicine, and those seeking inspiration in research.
H Bramwell Cook
Formerly Gastroenterologist at Christchurch Hospital
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