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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-04-30 09:16
Vampires, Burial, and Death by Paul Barber
Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality - Paul Barber

TITLE:  Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality

 

AUTHOR:  Paul Barber

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1988

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780300041262

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DESCRIPTION:

 

"In this engrossing book, Paul Barber surveys centuries of folklore about vampires and offers the first scientific explanation for the origins of the vampire legends.  From the tale of a sixteenth-century shoemaker from Breslau whose ghost terrorized everyone in the city, to the testimony of a doctor who presided over the exhumation and dissection of a graveyard full of Serbian vampires, his book is fascinating reading."

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REVIEW:

 

An interesting and fascinating examination of the possible causes of various vampire legends and mythologies, focusing on what happens to a corpse during decomposition.  The occasional droll observations were entertaining.  The author also differentiates between vampire folklore/legends and literature, which are rather different.  A bit repetitive.

 

 

 

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review 2020-04-13 13:21
Epidemics and Society by Frank M. Snowden
Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present - Frank M. Snowden

TITLE:   Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present

 

AUTHOR:   Frank M. Snowden

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2019

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780300192216

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DESCRIPTION:

"A wide-ranging study that illuminates the connection between epidemic diseases and societal change, from the Black Death to Ebola

This sweeping exploration of the impact of epidemic diseases looks at how mass infectious outbreaks have shaped society, from the Black Death to today. In a clear and accessible style, Frank M. Snowden reveals the ways that diseases have not only influenced medical science and public health, but also transformed the arts, religion, intellectual history, and warfare.

A multidisciplinary and comparative investigation of the medical and social history of the major epidemics, this volume touches on themes such as the evolution of medical therapy, plague literature, poverty, the environment, and mass hysteria. In addition to providing historical perspective on diseases such as smallpox, cholera, and tuberculosis, Snowden examines the fallout from recent epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola and the question of the world’s preparedness for the next generation of diseases.
"

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REVIEW:

 

Snowden provides an interesting overview of how societies (and their governments) at various times and places dealt with disease epidemics.  The epidemics discussed in this book include the 3 bubonic plague epidemics, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, TB, malaria, polio, HIV/AIDS and emerging diseases such as ebola and SARS.  Also examined is the effect these epidemics had on historical incidences such as the outcomes of wars and changes in culture; for example the effects of yellow fever, dysentery and typhus on Napoleon's war efforts.  An interesting, informative, easy to digest, but not frivolous, look at how disease epidemics effect society.

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review 2020-02-17 03:45
Mummies Of Urumchi by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
Mummies Of Urumchi - Elizabeth Wayland Barber

TITLE:  Mummies Of Urumchi

 

AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Wayland Barber

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1999

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780333730249

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DESCRIPTION:

"In the museums of Ürümchi, the windswept regional capital of the Uyghur Autonomous Region (also known as Chinese Turkestan), a collection of ancient mummies lies at the center of an enormous mystery.

 

Some of Ürümchi's mummies date back as far as 4,000 years―contemporary with the famous Egyptian mummies but even more beautifully preserved. Surprisingly, these prehistoric people are not Asian but Caucasoid―tall, large-nosed and blond with thick beards and round eyes. What were these blond Caucasians doing in the heart of Asia? What language did they speak? Might they be related to a "lost tribe" known from later inscriptions? Few clues are offered by their pottery or tools, but their clothes―woolens that rarely survive more than a few centuries―have been preserved as brightly hued as the day they were woven. Elizabeth Wayland Barber describes these remarkable mummies and their clothing, and deduces their path to this remote, forbidding place. The result is a book like no other―a fascinating unveiling of an ancient, exotic, nearly forgotten world. A finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. Illustrated"

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REVIEW:

 

Barber describes the mummies found at Urumchi, Loulan and Cherche, located in the Tarim Basin, Central Asia.  She focuses on the textiles found on these mummies and compares them with the tartan found on mummies found in ancient salt mines near Salzburg, Austria.  The types of materials, weaves, types of looms, as well as the origin and spread of weaving technology is examined, and compared with neighbouring cultures.  The world these ancient people inhabited is examined in an attempt to piece together their history and peculiar Western connections, both from what Barber personally observed and from the testimony of others who explored the Silk Road centuries earlier.  Linguistic clues are also examined, as well as (then) newly discovered scripts and thus languages dubbed Tokharian.  The historical movement of various groups of people are examined, taking into account the physical geography and changing climate of the area.  Barber provides a riveting historical adventure during which an exotic and relatively unknown world is gradually revealed.  The book contains numerous maps and many colour photographs. 

 

This is an informative and interesting book that examines where various people making their home in the Tarim Basin came from, how they lived, their movements, their associations to the East (China) and West (Europe, Near East), and what eventually happened to them.  Barber has an easy-going writing style that manages to remain professional but not dull or boring.

 

OTHER BOOKS:

 

The Tarim Mummies:  Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West by J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair

 

 

 

 

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review 2020-02-10 11:52
How Invention Begins by John H. Leinhard
How Invention Begins: Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines - John H. Leinhard

TITLE:  How Invention Begins: Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines

 

AUTHOR:  John H. Leinhard

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2008

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780195341201

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DESCRIPTION:

"In How Invention Begins, Lienhard reconciles the ends of invention with the individual leaps upon which they are built, illuminating the vast web of individual inspirations that lie behind whole technologies. He traces, for instance, the way in which thousands of people applied their combined inventive genius to airplanes, railroad engines, and automobiles. As he does so, it becomes clear that a collective desire, an upwelling of fascination, a spirit of the times--a Zeitgeist--laid its hold upon inventors. The thing they all sought to create was speed itself. Likewise, Lienhard shows that when we trace the astonishingly complex technology of printing books, we come at last to that which we desire from books--the knowledge, the learning, that they provide. Can we speak of speed or education as inventions? To do so, he concludes, is certainly no greater a stretch than it is to call radio or the telephone an "invention."

Throughout this marvelous volume, Lienhard illuminates these webs of insight or inspiration by weaving a fabric of anecdote, history, and technical detail--all of which come together to provide a full and satisfying portrait of the true nature of invention.
"

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REVIEW:

 

Informative and interesting.  Does what is says in the blurb.  "Stuff" doesn't get invented in a vacuum!

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-12-18 09:14
Longitude by Dava Sobel
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time - Neil Armstrong,Dava Sobel

TITLE:  Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

 

AUTHOR:  Dava Sobel

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2005

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780802714626

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DESCRIPTION:

"Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that "the longitude problem" was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day—and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution.

The scientific establishment of Europe—from Galileo to Sir Issac Newton—had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution—a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is a dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest and Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clock-making, and opens a new window on our world.

On its 10th anniversary, a gift edition of this classic book, with a forward by one of history's greatest explorers, and eight pages of color illustrations.
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REVIEW:

 

Sobel has written a short, superficial but informative book about the quest to discover/invent a means of determining longitude at sea.  This is a popular history book, and as such does not have enough technical details of either the astronomical or mechanical approaches to the longitude problem for my taste.  The writing was plain and the tale told underwhelming.  Someone needs to write a more fleshed out book on this subject.

 

 

 

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