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The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin,…
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The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin, and the Epidemic That Changed…

by Tony Williams

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During Boston's smallpox outbreak in 1721, Puritan clergyman Cotton Mather and a young Benjamin Franklin found themselves on opposite sides of the inoculation question. One was for using a method known in Africa and Asia but only recently discovered by the European scientific community. The other was against this untried method that would likely spread the contagion rather than curb it. Surprisingly, Cotton Mather was the most prominent Bostonian advocating inoculation, while most of its physicians as well as Benjamin Franklin and his printer brother were against it. Using the smallpox epidemic as an example, the author explores the worldview of clergymen such as Cotton Mather who integrated science and religion.

The end notes and bibliography consist mainly of secondary sources; primary sources are limited to newspapers of the era, a few pamphlets, and published papers, diaries, journals, and autobiographies/memoirs. It is not suitable for an academic/scholarly audience, although it might be appropriate for a high school library collection. Recommended only for readers with a casual interest in the topic. ( )
  cbl_tn | Aug 17, 2015 |
Another bit of research for my Boston By Foot Dark Side tour, this one discussing the history of the smallpox pandemic of 1721. Cotton Mather, a religious conservative but also a man of science (and member of the Royal Society), responded by encouraging people to take inoculation with the only doctor willing to help him, Zabdiel Boylston. Mather partially credited the practice to his African slave Onesimus once again showing himself a man ahead of his time as he both thought African medicine valid and gave credit where credit was due. Mather faced much opposition both on superstitious and scientific grounds. His most surprising opponent was the New England Courant published by Benjamin Franklin's elder brother James whom one would assume would be on the side of reason and science. Williams holds that the smallpox pandemic and the inoculation controversy was the death knell of the Puritan covenant and forever changed the culture of Boston. He brings in lots of interesting details and facts of early 18th century Boston although at times it feels like he's padding an already thin book. Maybe this would hold together better as a long article rather than a book but I found it interesting and informative. ( )
1 vote Othemts | Jul 6, 2011 |
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Presents an account of the 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston that caused death and panic across the city while the clergy turned to fasting and prayer, rejecting the scientific community's new approach--inoculation.

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2 editions of this book were published by Sourcebooks.

Editions: 1402236050, 1402260938

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