Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis

This article originally appeared in Vol. IV, No. 4 of Blackwell's Almanac.

Everyone agrees New York is an exceptionally vibrant city, a characteristic it owes to its large population, dense urban landscape, crowded public spaces and influx of people and goods from all over the country and world. Ironically, these very same factors have been responsible for its roiling stew of microbes and contagious disease. The human toll across centuries has been enormous. Yet the impact of germs and illness has not just been on health. Science, art, housing, water systems, sanitation, individual and collective rights, public policy, social activism—in fact, almost all aspects of city life—have in some way been shaped by our response to these microbial incursions. Read more...