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Are you ready? Mysteries, the hit fiction podcast team. Yes, reaches this thrilling final season. This coming from my dear child team, and by season four, no one is allowed up here. I have all the listen and follow my team and be on the radio out Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts, take me to to Monday.
But now we wait till and be welcome to stuff you missed in history class a production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast, I'm Tracy Wilson, and I'm Holly from today's subject is really who I first heard about on two other podcasts, which were sawbones and 99 percent invisible.
Both of those shows talked about him and episodes they did on medical masks that came out earlier on in the covid-19 pandemic. We're going to touch on the medical mask also. But this episode is really more about WUS public health work and the pneumonic plague epidemic that he is most known for today. And just a little note about names before we start. ENDA is a romanization of the doctor's name in Mandarin, and that's what he used during most of his career.
Like if you look at things that were published during his lifetime, that's usually the byline that's on there and English language publications.
But you will also sometimes see romanization that came from Cantonese and when he was first enrolled in a British school as a child. And what's now, Malatia, a clerk for some reason, recorded his name and sort of a weird hybrid of Cantonese and Hoquiam romanization and in medical school. And then the first part of his career as a doctor, he usually went by G.L. Tuque, which came from that weird hybrid romanization. So just for consistency, we will use the name and for the whole episode.
Also, pretty much every place we are going to mention in today's episode was part of a different country or known by a different name or Romanized differently at the time. We're going to clarify those things as much as we can. And then when it's a matter of just like the same name, but a different romanization, we're just going to try to stick to the current one. Hopefully I caught all of those.
That was really a lot and was born in Penang, Malaysia, on March 10th, 1879. His father was a Cantonese goldsmith who had immigrated to Penang from China and his mother was ethnically Chinese, but she was born in Penang. Wu was their fourth son and eighth child out of eleven. The goldsmith's shop was a pretty prosperous one and the family lived in a home above it. Today, Penang is in Malaysia, but at the time it was one of the street settlements, which were a collection of British territories along the Strait of Malacca, which was early education took place at the Penang Free School, which was open to boys regardless of their religion or their nationality.
Classes there were taught primarily in English, and when we was 17, he was awarded the Queen's Scholarship that allowed him to travel to England to study at Emmanuel College at Cambridge. This made him the second Chinese student to study at Cambridge and the first Chinese medical student at Cambridge. After earning his M.D. there, he did a year of postgraduate work in bacteriology at the School of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool. And then he did research at the Pet Store Institute in Paris.
We returned to Penang in 1983. He had excelled in his studies and he earned multiple awards at Cambridge, and he was a qualified doctor with additional experience in infectious diseases and microbiology. But he couldn't get a job with the Colonial Medical Service because it was only hiring British physicians. So wew spent a year working at the Institute for Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur studying the B vitamin deficiency known as beriberi. He also spent some time in Singapore where he met his future wife, Ruth Huang Shu Chung.
By nineteen eighty four.
We was back in Penang, where he set up a private medical practice and he also became one of the editors of the Straits Chinese magazine. This was a Journal of arts, literature and culture for the Chinese residents of the Straits Settlements. We're really not going to touch on this much at all in this episode. But Wu had just a deep and lifelong love for literature and art. In addition to his private practice, Wu also started an aggressive campaign against opium, including founding pinnings, anti opium association and serving as its president and physician in chief, all when he was still just 24.
He campaigned for other reforms as well, including education for girls and a prohibition on gambling.
WUS anti opium campaign ruffled the feathers of high powered people who were involved in the opium trade. And in 1997, possibly in retaliation for this work, a search warrant was issued for his medical clinic and authorities found an ounce of opium tincture in a cupboard. A couple of different explanations have been proposed for why he had it. And what was that? He had bought it in case he needed to treat opium patients. And another was that it had been in there when he bought the practice.
Regardless of exactly what had happened, doctors had to have a license to have opium tincture on hand and we didn't have one. So he was convicted and charged a fine and. He found the whole incident to be just humiliating not long after the opium incident, who was offered a job as the vice director of the Imperial Army Medical College in Tianjin, China. He accepted this position and he traveled to London and Berlin for additional training in military hygiene. And it was after taking this position and moving to China in 1988 that he started using the Mandarin version of his name.
There were almost to the epidemic.
That was really a defining moment in Wu's career. But before we get to that, China had been through just a colossal amount of upheaval during Wu's lifetime. And some of that upheaval directly affected northeastern China, which was known at the time as Manchuria. And that's where this epidemic took place so briefly.
China lost the first Sino Japanese war, which ended in 1895. One of the outcomes of that war was that China had to cede some of Manchuria to Japan. China also had to pay reparations to Japan that it simply could not afford. So it had to seek out loans from other countries, including Russia. In 1896, China signed a secret and unequal treaty with Russia. Russia gave China the money it needed to pay the reparations, and China gave Russia access to land in Manchuria.
In theory, this treaty was also supposed to ensure mutual defense against Japan. But in reality it allowed Russia to establish a foothold in Manchuria and set the stage for it to claim.
Additional Chinese territory is often pointed to as one of the as part of the context for the Boxer rebellion, like was part of what was fueling a lot of anti foreigner sentiment in China that in 1984 Russia went to war against Japan. With a lot of the fighting happening in Manchuria, as many as 20000 Chinese civilians were killed as a result of the fighting. This war ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth. In 1995, Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his peace negotiations, including the negotiation of this treaty in 1986.
This treaty has another sort of in theory aspect to it, though in theory, both Russia and Japan recognize Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria under the Treaty of Portsmouth. But in reality, both Russia and Japan still had substantial interests there, including railroads that each of them had built. The railroads were incorporated into the treaty, with each nation allowed to keep troops in Manchuria based on the length of their railroad line, purportedly for protection from bandits and other defense. Because of all this, by the early 20th century, Manchuria had become kind of a patchwork of Japanese, Russian and Chinese influence with ethnic diversity within the Chinese population as well.
Russia controlled the Eastern Chinese railway as part of the Trans-Siberian railway, and that ended at the Russian port of Vladivostok. Japan controlled the South Manchuria railway and along their respective rail lines, Russia and Japan each controlled cities and towns that had large numbers of Russian and Japanese nationals, as well as people from other countries living there. Russia and Japan also had trading rights along their railway routes, and then China also controlled a portion of the railroad as well, which was the Imperial Chinese Railway.
All of these railroads were a big part of the spread of plague through Manchuria starting in 1910. And we're going to get into that after we first pause for a sponsor break. Hey, it's Bobby Bones, executive producer of Make It Up as we Go, the brand new podcast from Audio Up and I Heart Radio brought to you exclusively by Unilever's Noor and Magnum Brands. The story follows a songwriter's journey as well as the songs themselves and how they make it to country radio from executive producer Miranda Lambert and creators Scarlett Burg and Jared Goosestep, a story inspired by the competitive world of Nashville writing rooms featuring original music by Scarlett Burke, director and executive producer, featuring some of the biggest names in country, including The Cool Guy and everything now.
Nowadays, everything, just like now it's feeling like one day on a Saturday night. Make it up as we go only on the podcast network in association with audio of media created by Scarlett Burke and Jared Goosestep. One of the primary industries in Manchuria in the early 20th century was the fur trade, specifically the ptarmigan marmot with marmot can carry plague, and Manchuria went through regular, almost seasonal outbreaks of plague that generally followed the hunting season. These outbreaks were usually the bubonic form of the plague, which is characterized by fever, weakness and painfully swollen lymph nodes, which are called Bibeau's.
And these outbreaks tended to be localized and they would last for a few months and Russian, Japanese and Chinese officials in Manchuria all had their own procedures for dealing with them. So when trappers and fur traders in Mongolia started getting sick in mid-October of 1910, at first people didn't realize that that was actually something different. Manderley was right on the border with Russia. It was one of the major centers in the fur trade in Manchuria. Large numbers of seasonal hunters and trappers would come to the area and they would stay in these crowded, poorly ventilated huts.
And in some of these were literally underground. So they were in these confined quarters with very bad ventilation. Demand for marmot fur had also skyrocketed after the discovery that it could be dyed to look like sable, some hunters had resorted to digging sick animals out of their burrows to get their pelts. Although unlike with healthy marmots, these thick animals were not generally also used as food. The first deaths were reported in Majali in late October of 1910, with the first victims being Chinese fur trappers.
Russia and Japan both had medical facilities in their respective railroad towns. In Majali, Russia's medical centers were staffed with nine doctors, more than 70 nurses and 26 assistants. As more cases came in, they diagnosed the disease as pneumonic plague caused by the same organism as bubonic plague, but characterized by shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing up blood, followed quickly by death. If there was no treatment today, plague is treatable with antibiotics, which didn't exist yet in 1910.
So the fatality rate for pneumonic plague was close to 100 percent. Authorities in manually informed international authorities in the towns along the railroad lines of what was happening. The Japanese controlled cities in particular started taking a lot of steps to try to prevent the introduction of infection into those cities, including screening all incoming travelers and quarantining their Chinese population en masse. But it still was not immediately obvious just how serious this situation was, since the clearest symptom of pneumonic plague was coughing up blood.
And since death typically followed within forty eight hours of that symptom, isolating people who were potentially exposed before they showed symptoms was really the only way to try to control the spread of the disease. Contact tracing was difficult since so many of the victims were migrant fur trappers and laborers who didn't know anyone and couldn't provide details about who they had had contact with.
So Russian authorities and Majali essentially treated the entire Chinese population, especially the poorest Chinese people, as potentially infected. They detained Chinese people in groups of 25. And if nobody experienced any symptoms and five days at which point if they had been infected, it would be obvious then they were all free to go. But if anybody in the group did experience symptoms, that meant that anyone else who had been isolated with them was now potentially infected and their five day wait started over.
Soon, though, isolation facilities and Mandalay were totally overwhelmed and authorities had to start quarantining people in empty rail cars, this mass isolation was obviously difficult. People didn't understand why they were being detained, so they would often break or try to evade quarantine. And they tried to hide any symptoms of illness. Beyond the mass quarantine, authorities were also taking steps that were not effective at containing the disease, like focusing on exterminating rats which were not spreading the pneumonic form of the plague death.
If this were a bubonic plague outbreak, then rats and their fleas would have been part of the problem. In fact, right on November 8th, plague was first detected in Harbin, which is another Russian town farther southeast on the railroad line. And that also had a Chinese quarter known as Pacetti in the first death in Harbin was reported on November 9th. Russian authorities in Harbin started taking similar measures to what had been done in Mongolia while. Also trying to coordinate with Chinese authorities in Fujian, but it became increasingly clear that the epidemic could not be contained through this patchwork of effort by Chinese, Russian and Japanese authorities, all of which were operating in different towns and districts.
As November wore on, both Russia and Japan started threatening to send in their own health ministers to take over if China did not take stronger action. China also realized that Russia, Japan or some other country entirely could use this epidemic as a pretext for a full on invasion of Manchuria, which was highly attractive to multiple nations thanks to its geography and its natural resources. So China's councilor of foreign affairs tasked Wallenda with traveling to Harbin to try to contain this epidemic.
And a lot of ways, Wu was really the logical choice for this. He was a respected doctor with experience in microbiology. He was ethnically Chinese, which might make local Chinese people more receptive to his direction than they were to Russian or Japanese officials sending. Wu also demonstrated that China did have its own medical experts who had trained at prestigious universities and institutes.
But Wu was also an English speaking doctor who had grown up in British territory and had trained in the West. And he wore Western clothes and thought traditional Chinese medicine had value only as a historical and cultural artifact. And all of this made him the target of suspicion from many Chinese people. He also didn't speak Mandarin, so a senior medical student had to serve as an interpreter and since Wu was only 31. Authorities and medical experts from other countries questioned his medical knowledge because of both his race and his age.
Wu got the order to go to Harbin on December 19th, and he got there five days later. And at this point, medical authorities and local people in Harbin and elsewhere really had suspected a number of possible sources of disease transmission. One was, again, rats and their fleas with widespread efforts to control the rat population and bounties placed on rats and some affected cities. Another was money. Authorities in Harbin were sterilizing paper money with steam and sterilizing coins with mercuric chloride.
There were also people who blamed the disease on contaminants in inferior quality opium, suggesting that the reason that poor people seemed to be the most affected was that they could only afford the cheapest opium sold on the black market.
Shortly after arriving in Harbin, Wu conducted a post-mortem examination on a Japanese woman who had died of the disease. This is sometimes noted as the first autopsy conducted in China. Autopsies were highly taboo among Chinese people, and that is why we sought out the body of a non Chinese patient for examination. Wu was able to culture plague bacteria from that woman's tissue samples, confirming that the disease at work was pneumonic plague. Wu also concluded that this pneumonic plague was spreading from person to person through things like coughing.
And so, in addition to the isolation efforts and the sanitary cordons around the affected cities that were already in place, Wu recommended the use of masks to protect health care workers from the disease. He was not the first person ever to recommend masks as a protection against plague. The plague Dr. Masks that I think most people could imagine. They date back to the 17th century, and that pointed nose portion of the mask was stuffed with garlic or herbs or other fragrant materials to protect against miasmas which are believed to cause illness.
The Manchurian Plague happened during the third plague pandemic, which started in 1855 and in the late 19th century. After that pandemic had started, medical authorities in both Germany and Japan had recommended using cloth or sponges to cover the noses and mouths of patients who had respiratory symptoms as well as their attendants wuz mask design was one of several in the 1910 epidemic, but it is also recognized as the one that was most effective and the most widely used. It was the simplest to put on and wear, and it could be made quickly with inexpensive materials.
Wu described the mask this way and the treatise that he wrote on Pneumonic Plague quote, This consists of two layers of gauze enclosing a flat, oblong piece of absorbent cotton six inches by four inches. It can be easily made by cutting the usual surgical gauze nine inches wide as supplied from the shops into strips, each measuring three feet in length. Each strip is then doubled lengthwise so as to contain the middle flat piece of cotton wool, measuring four inches by six inches at either end of the gauze, two cuts each, measuring 15 inches are made thus.
Turning the pad into a three tale gauze bandage with the central piece of wool for covering the respiratory entrance, the upper tail of one side should be passed around the side of the head, above the ear and tied to the other corresponding tail. The lower most tail should, in a similar manner, be passed under the ear and tied to the one on the other side, while the middle tail should be passed over the crown of the head so as to fix the pad and prevent it from slipping down the neck.
This was a way thicker mask than like the cloth masks that people are wearing today. It reminds me of like not a current modern fancy cloth diaper that's colorful and has removable inserts, but like the cloth diaper from when I was a kid in the 70s, like it was thick and heavy.
So as Tracy mentioned, the resulting mask was really, really thick. And there was sort of a double benefit here because in addition to offering protection from disease, it also helped protect the wearer's face during the Manchurian Winter. And we recommended that this mask be worn by doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical staff, as well as patients and their family members and caregivers. Also, anyone who had contact with any of these people, people who were doing contact tracing or house to house searches for sick people and people cremating victims bodies.
And ideally, everyone in the monograph that I read from a moment ago, which he went on to publish about the plague 15 years later, we were described masks as the most important method of personal prophylaxis. But he also really stressed that preventing pneumonic plague required a combination approach masks, gloves, goggles and gowns, hand washing and other hygiene measures, disinfecting of surfaces and instruments, quarantines and the use of vaccines and anti plague serums. He also noted that people wearing masks needed to be vigilant against allowing their mask to give them a false sense of security so that they like slacked off on all of those other measures.
More recently, Dr. WUS masks have become part of a sort of cautionary tale involving French physician Dr. Jarold Many, who is head professor at PEI Young Medical College in WUS account. Many was both dismissive of the idea that the plague was being spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and dismissive of Wu's medical expertise because he was Chinese. Many did his rounds at a plague hospital without wearing a mask and then contracted the disease and died.
The basics of all of this are true. Many did die of pneumonic plague during this epidemic after treating patients without a mask. And apart from Woo's own account of how many treated him, the entire international response to this epidemic was rife with racism. Non Chinese people dismissed the work of Chinese doctors and medical staff. International efforts were based on the idea that Chinese people were dirty, backward disease vectors. Wu himself also contributed to some of this, characterizing the migratory trappers who had come to Manchuria seeking work as ignorant spreaders of disease.
But an important addition to all of this is that there was also a vaccine for plague in 1910. It had been developed by a Jewish doctor from Russia, Valdemar Mordechai Hoft Kayna. In 1896, just two years after the plague bacillus had first been identified. Many had been vaccinated against the plague, as had a number of Russian medical staff who also contracted the plague in this epidemic and died. When we wrote about this in his autobiography, it's sort of an illustrative tale in which many easily becomes the villain and then in in sort of viral posts about masks that have been floating around the Internet more recently like that, sort of amplified even more.
But many did not just disregard WUS precautions and go into a plague with no protection at all. He thought that he was protected because he had received a vaccine. It was only later that it became clear that the vaccine dosage that conferred immunity and bubonic plague was not enough to protect someone who was exposed to plague through their respiratory system and mucous membranes. That monograph on plague that we've referenced a couple of times has these charts where it was like it took multiple doses and this other plague serum to like maybe offer some protection from pneumonic plague in a way that was way more simple and straightforward.
And like one dose for bubonic plague, the international community had already recognized the Manchurian Plague as having the dangerous potential to spread along railroad and shipping routes. But Minnies death seems to have spurred more aggressive action. It was no longer primarily poor Chinese trappers and laborers who were dying. It was also a respected Western. Doctors, so we'll have more on all this after a break. In January of 1911, not long after the death of Dr. Gerard Meany, the Chinese government deployed twelve hundred troops to Manchuria to assist with quarantine enforcement, as well as 600 police officers who were dispatched to conduct house to house searches.
A new plague hospital was built in Harbin, with the old one being burned completely to the ground. Dr. William De coordinated with the Japanese, Russian and Chinese authorities to shut down each of their respective sections of the railroad. He also focused on cleanliness and hygiene. The masks we talked about earlier, and I'm trying to find strategies for controlling the disease that would be accepted by the local people who really didn't trust Western doctors like Western medicine was a really new introduction in China at this point.
This included recommending that people in Harbin set off their Chinese New Year firecrackers inside their homes, hoping that the sulfur fumes from those firecrackers would act as sort of an airborne disinfectant.
Heaven forbid such an idea take hold here at the moment. Wu had also arranged for a mass cremation of plague victims in Harbin. He had discovered that there were more than 2000 bodies that had not been buried because the ground was frozen and some of the bodies were lying on the ground because the city had run out of coffins. Wu was concerned that animals might feed on those corpses and become a new reservoir for the disease. But the idea of a mass cremation like this was anathema in Chinese society.
Wu had to secure an imperial edict for the cremation, which was the first of its kind in China.
The cremation took place in the last day of January 1911, with Chinese New Year having been on the 30th. Even with that imperial edict that granted formal permission, though, this was still a deeply traumatic event for a lot of local Chinese people. In addition to the cultural and religious taboos that were involved, a lot of people who had died were too young to have descendants who could perform their funeral rites. A lot of others were migrants or immigrants who didn't have local family at all and whose bodies were being burned far away from their ancestral homes.
Simultaneously, Wu marked. This is an important moment in controlling the spread of the disease and a turning point in the progression of the epidemic.
By this point, the epidemic had been brought under control in Mongolia, where the first cases had been reported. The last people held her quarantine in Manderley were released on December 22nd, 1910. But the disease had also spread further along the railroad, including to the Chinese town of Mukden, now known as Shenyang, where a sick traveler from Harbin arrived on January 2nd.
In all of the cities and towns where the disease was still spreading. Authorities conducted house to house searches looking for sick people, detained people until it was clear they were not ill and quarantined.
People who showed symptoms or had had contact with people who had this whole effort still suffered from a lack of coordination and oversight. Though the city of Moncton hadn't really prepared for the epidemic, even though it was clear that it was moving toward them down the rail lines. The Chamber of Commerce there tried to set up its own isolation hospital catering to the Chinese merchant class. But the infection control procedures at that hospital were not particularly rigorous, including many of the doctors working without masks.
The illness spread through the hospital itself, killing 250 patients and both of the doctors. At that point, authorities ordered that hospital to be closed. The Chamber of Commerce and Mukden also had organized the Sanitary Brigade to help conduct house-to-house inspections and searches in the city. That effort apparently went better as all of this was going on. China asked for other nations to send medical experts to Manchuria, both to help control the outbreak and to study the disease to American doctors.
Richard P. Strong and Oskar Teague were in the Philippines and they were among the ones who arrived in Manchuria. Their focus was more on study than on control. Since autopsies were so taboo, they focused their work on unclaimed unidentified bodies, conducting 25 autopsies that contributed enormously to the understanding of pneumonic plague. Researchers also tried to confirm whether the Ptarmigan Marmot really had played a part in this epidemic. But their research at that point was hampered by the fact that these animals hibernate in the winter like they could go try to find some that were hibernating.
But that still wasn't going to really help them determine whether weather like that was not a real world scenario to what it had been like back in November. Studies conducted later on, though, did confirm that these measurements can contract pneumonic plague and they can spread it from one to another. So it seems likely that the first case of. In this epidemic was contracted from a sick marmot, but that's not likely something that will ever be proved for certain. The last new case of pneumonic plague in Harbin was reported on March 1st, 1911, with scattered cases elsewhere being reported over the following weeks.
In April of 1911, China outlawed ptarmigan hunting as the plague was winding down. The first international plague conference was convened in Mukden from April 3rd to 28th, and this was the first international conference of its kind to be held in China.
This conference involved a whole lot of like infighting and international drama. Russia's delegation was primarily made up of military people, which China took as an implied threat to try to take over more territory. At first, Japan announced that it was going to boycott the conference altogether, apparently because it felt like it was being upstaged by China. Japan did ultimately send five delegates, though in the end, the delegates at the conference passed 45 resolutions as recommendations for the Chinese government on public health and plague prevention.
And another thing to come out of this conference was the establishment of the North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service, which we will talk about more in a moment.
By the time the international plague conference came to a close, the pneumonic plague epidemic in Manchuria was essentially over. Official records document forty three thousand nine hundred seventy two cases of pneumonic plague and one survivor. Although because migrant laborers and trappers may not have been listed on official tallies, some estimates are as high as 60000 deaths since cases were clustered in railroad towns. The death tolls in those communities were tremendous. Yeah, if you look at the like the percentage of deaths, like deaths as a percentage of the whole population, like that number seems small, but that's because it's spread out of the whole population of Manchuria and not just those railroad towns.
It is really not clear whether this outbreak was brought under control through medical intervention or whether it wound down through other factors. The way bubonic plague outbreaks in Manchuria seemed to be cyclical and temporary. But it is clear that efforts to stop traffic along the railroads and establish sanitary cordons around cities and generally keep people from traveling that kept the disease from spreading much beyond Manchuria. The creation of the North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service was one of the last formal acts of the Qing Dynasty before the Chinese revolution of 1911, which overthrew the Imperial Dynasty and established a Republic of China.
The Plague Service started its work on October 1st, 1912. Under the new Republican government, sometimes the North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service, as described as China's first public health agency. But that's not entirely true. When we have talked about public health reform on the show before, we've generally been talking about the U.S. or the UK, where typically philanthropists or medical professionals or sometimes just really enthusiastic laypeople have done everything from creating new programs themselves to advocating for change at the government level.
But Chinese public health followed a precedent that had been set in Germany and Japan, where the first public health efforts were part of the police. China had established a police based public health service in 1982 in the Ministry of Police, established in 1985 included a sanitary department. These officers carried out health and sanitation directives, quarantine enforcement and infection control procedures. China was still implementing police sanitary departments in its cities by the time the epidemic started, and there wasn't one in Manchuria yet.
So it is true that the North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service was the first public health service in northeastern China, and many of its efforts were still connected to policing. The quarantine hospitals it established were modeled after prisons, with patients being described using the same general language as would be used for prisoners. Conversely, it is absolutely true that this plague outbreak and the North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service had a huge role in the development of medicine and public health in China.
The Chinese government quickly recognized the role of Western medicine in treating and preventing contagious diseases. During all this, it also started to adopt the general idea that the government had a responsibility to protect public health. Woolie India was a major part of this process. He helped found the National Medical Association in China in 1915. He served as secretary that year and then as president from 1916 to 1920. He helped establish hospitals including six isolation hospitals that operated under the Plague Prevention Service.
He also helped found the. National Medical Journal of China and became the first Chinese person to publish an article in The Lancet, is published work in the field of medicine included coauthoring a massive history of Chinese medicine and publishing that treatise on pneumonic plague that we've been talking about that happened in 1926. And that treatise was the standard reference on pneumonic plague for the next three decades. He also published 92 papers over the course of his career. Thirty one of them on the subject of plague.
And he was involved in a series of other epidemics in China, including multiple other plague outbreaks and two outbreaks of cholera. Wu was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for Work on Pneumonic Plague, and especially the discovery of the role played by the Ptarmigan in its transmission in 1935. This made him the first Chinese person to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in medicine over his career. He was also awarded honorary doctorate from Peking University, Hong Kong University and Tokyo University outside of his medical work who helped establish libraries.
And he amassed a collection of 2000 books that he donated to Nanyang University as the Woolley's collection. He also donated six works of art to the Art Museum of the University of Malaya. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria and Wu and his family fled to Shanghai. Then in 1937, when Japan invaded Shanghai. He and his family moved to Malaysia. That same year, Wu's wife died of tuberculosis. Two of their children had died as well, one at the age of 16 and the other in infancy.
Wu eventually remarried to a woman named Lisa Chen and had five more children.
Wu's life beyond this point is not as extensively documented in English as his earlier career and his work in that 1910 epidemic. He did publish an autobiography in 1956, but it is out of print and it was not accessible. Has the research for this episode also sixty two pages long. I read some reviews of it to try to get a sense of what it was like and and they were mixed. One specifically said the book is too long and the other talked about it being pretty fascinating.
It does seem to like a lot of people's autobiographies. Do you like it? Presents him in a very good light. He obviously did astounding and important work, but like even better light than might be just rooted in that. We do know, though, that he spent the rest of his life working in medicine and public health before dying on January 20th, 1960, at the age of 81. In the words of his obituary in the Times of London, quote, By his death, the world of medicine has lost a heroic and almost legendary figure and the world at large, one of whom it is far more indebted to than it knows.
On December 24th, 1915, the Julian Institute opened at Harvard University, focusing on conducting research into infectious diseases. In twenty nineteen, The Lancet established the weekly Rouland Prize for essays written in Chinese. The theme for the 2020 contest is Chinese Health Workers experiences during the covid-19 pandemic.
I actually have a listener mail that is a little related to what we've been doing have at it. This is from Hailie. I hope I am saying your name right. Haley wrote in to say hello. I've been searching for a good resource on the history of fabric mask's. I would appreciate any suggestions, but thought I would throw it out as an episode idea as well. Of course, I know you get many emails and share suggestions, so no worries if you're not able to answer.
I know fabric masks were used in 1918, though public interpretation of mask mandates diminished their usefulness. I feel like they caught on in several East Asian countries around the time of SARS and their reception there is very different. Maybe because of that they're not an uncommon part of Japanese street fashion. However, they've been a staple in rave, cyber, goth and other fashion subgroups with leanings towards a postapocalyptic aesthetic. For years now, for example, photos of Burning Man show lots of masks.
I think it must be an interesting history and I would love to hear more on this topic. So I'm passing it along best. Hailie. So No. One, thank you, Hailie, for writing this email. Number two, I thought it would be a good time to provide some more information on the podcast I referenced at the top of this episode. One of the weird things that has come about because of this pandemic is sometimes feeling like all the podcasts I listen to you are talking about the same topics.
So, uh, the podcast sawbones from Sydney and Justin McIlroy on March 30th. Twenty twenty, they did an episode called Mask's. Does the history of medical masks, that includes a little bit about what we talked about today and then 99 percent invisible on April 20, first 20 20 did the podcast episode masking for a Friend, which is also about the history and design of masks. And then the one of these three that I haven't actually listened to all the way through is NPR's Throughline, which came out on May 14th, 2020 with an episode titled The Mask.
All three of these episodes focused primarily on like the medical use of masks and not like the cultural or religious or theatrical use of masks, which, wow, would be such a gigantic topic.
I don't know if that would be covered in one episode, but there's a lot of stuff that has come out in the last couple of months about masks.
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