Thursday, September 30, 2021

Paul Dombey's "hooping-cough" and Leila Denmark, creator of the pertussis vaccine

In Charles Dickens's "Dombey and Son", Paul Dombey is a sickly child who, among other things, is "down in every fit of the hooping-cough". (Here, "hooping" is an old and now rare variant of "whooping".) When Dickens's novel was published in 1848, the only disease for which a vaccine existed was smallpox; only in 1880 did Louis Pasteur develop the next vaccine, for cholera. The first vaccine for whooping-cough (or pertussis) was developed in the 1930s by Leila Denmark, a pediatrician in Atlanta, Georgia, who was born in 1898 and died in 2012 at 114 years old, having continued to treat her patients until her eyesight began to fail at 103. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 30 September 2021)


Dr Leila Denmark
Dr. Laila Denmark in the 1990s

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