Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases?

For the discussion of the sciences. Physics problems, chemistry equations, biology weirdness, it all goes here.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

Farabor
Posts: 157
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:46 am UTC

Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases?

Postby Farabor » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:23 pm UTC

So, I was listening to NPR today talk about the canonization of a spanish missionary to the new world, and they brought up the topic of all of the natives killed by European diseases that they had no resistances built up to.

Strangely enough, today was the first time I wondered about the symmetric situation: Were there diseases native to the Americas, unknown to the Europeans, that the newcomers fell victim to? If yes, why is the history always presented just from the one side? If no, why not?

The only theory I could come up with on the "Why not" might have to do with the population density of Europe, having had diseases go through more evolution from packed cities....

User avatar
Xanthir
My HERO!!!
Posts: 5400
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:49 am UTC
Location: The Googleplex
Contact:

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby Xanthir » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:34 pm UTC

Yes, but Europe was astonishingly disease-filled. Europeans were basically plague zombies.

An example of a disease that went the other direction is syphilis.
(defun fibs (n &optional (a 1) (b 1)) (take n (unfold '+ a b)))

Nicias
Posts: 167
Joined: Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:22 pm UTC

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby Nicias » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:36 pm UTC

Some people think syphilis when the other way. Otherwise, yes the disease mostly went one way. Population density was much higher in the Old World. They had more domesticated animals in the Old World too. Both of these contribute to epidemic diseases.

[Ninja-ed]

Frenetic Pony
Posts: 177
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:31 am UTC

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby Frenetic Pony » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:54 pm UTC

Nicias wrote:Some people think syphilis when the other way. Otherwise, yes the disease mostly went one way. Population density was much higher in the Old World. They had more domesticated animals in the Old World too. Both of these contribute to epidemic diseases.

[Ninja-ed]


Which contributed to a strong immune system as being a trait with high survival rates. A trait the largely spread out "Native Americans" (gotta be a better word) never needed. Really I'd recommend: https://books.google.com/books/about/Gu ... &q&f=false

As a good read for this sort of thing, its overally hypothesis misses some things. But it's still a very solid and even entertaining overview.

User avatar
Xanthir
My HERO!!!
Posts: 5400
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:49 am UTC
Location: The Googleplex
Contact:

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby Xanthir » Thu Sep 17, 2015 4:00 am UTC

So yeah, plague zombies. Just shuffling around, living with terrible diseases that they'd grown to tolerate, spreading epidemics wherever they go.
(defun fibs (n &optional (a 1) (b 1)) (take n (unfold '+ a b)))

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2135
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby ahammel » Thu Sep 17, 2015 4:56 am UTC

About a third of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel is about precisely this question.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

User avatar
Zamfir
I built a novelty castle, the irony was lost on some.
Posts: 7588
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:43 pm UTC
Location: Nederland

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby Zamfir » Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:13 pm UTC

The big book on this topic was "Plagues and people", by William McNeill

jewish_scientist
Posts: 1026
Joined: Fri Feb 07, 2014 3:15 pm UTC

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby jewish_scientist » Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:32 am UTC

Epidemiology always seemed strange to me in this way.

Because Europeans were sick a lot in Europe, they got sick less in the Americas. Because the Native Americans were healthy a lot, they got sick a lot when they meet the Europeans.

Because people get sick, doctors gave them antibiotics. Because everyone is using antibiotics, people are getting sick.

It is like a perpetual irony machine.
"You are not running off with Cow-Skull Man Dracula Skeletor!"
-Socrates

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 24, 2015 4:19 pm UTC

Well, it's a little more complex than that.

And I wouldn't call it irony.

It's just a bunch of feedback systems. And of course, not every feedback loop is always positive.

elasto
Posts: 3751
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Re: Europeans traveling to the Americas in history: Diseases

Postby elasto » Fri Sep 25, 2015 10:50 am UTC

"Life finds a way" - in this case not dinosaurs but germs....


Return to “Science”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests