“The dance of death” by Michael Wolmegut (1493) [Credit: Wikimedia Commons]
Irish history is littered with stories of death and destruction, from the days of Cromwell to the Civil War. But, diseases have also ravaged the land at various points in our history.
The ‘Black Death’ or the Plague, arrived here in 1347 (give or take a year or two according to experts), landing first in the port towns of Howth, Youghal and Waterford, before spreading at a frightening pace all over the country.
Then there was the Great Famine of the 1840s and 1850s triggered by a disease that rendered potatoes unfit for consumption.
In 1918, Influenza, or flu, wiped out a staggering 50 to 100 million people worldwide – more than the casualties of World War 1, which are estimated at 37 million. In Ireland at least 20,000 people died of from this flu that mainly killed healthy young people.
Then in the 1950s, TB arrived, again striking fear into the population before the authorities finally managed to get it under control.
In all four situations there were Irish people that contributed to the fight against disease. To find out more
LISTEN: Interview with Dr Aoife MacCormack & Daniel Kirby of Ireland’s Biomedical Diagnostic Institute
This was first broadcast on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM on 05-09-2012
Biomedical Diagnostic Institute
Videos: How Irish Science Battled Big Diseases