Even though it deals with the most serious of topics, this book has been lot of fun to write. There is nothing more exciting than bringing together facts and observations gleaned from many different people and from many different parts of the world, and then finding that they make an astonishing and quite unexpected pattern that helps to illuminate the complexity of the living world. That is what happened in the course of writing this book, and I can only hope that I have managed to communicate the excitement of this intellectual chase to the reader.
The book is not, I should say at the outset, encyclopedic in scope. Our species is subject to so many diseases - some of which are plagues and some of which are far less obvious in their effects - that it would be unbearably tedious to examine them all in depth. I have chosen diseases that have, in striking ways, shaped our evolutionary history and that of the world around us. My apologies if I have left out a disease of particular interest to the reader!
In my travels, both of body and mind, I have been introduced to people and experiences quite outside the narrow world of academe that is my normal lurking place. The following people, from many parts of the world, have been most helpful in various phases of the project: Roy Anderson, Stuart Anstis, Francis Black, Jack Bradbury, Wilma Casanova de Caspía, Ted Case, Jim Comiskey, Vaughn Cooper, Francisco Dallmeier, K. K. Datta, David Dennis, Kitty Done, Norman Done, Renu Dutta, Dick Dutton, Stanley Falkow, Anthony Fauci, Joshua Fierer, Ken Gage, Bob Gallo, Uriel Garcia-Caceres, Jan Geliebter, Doug Green, Eduardo Groisman, Amiya K. Hati, Jonathan Howard, John Holland, Stephen Hubbell, Audrey Ichida, Mary Jesudason, T. Jacob John, Philip Gwyn Jones, Murli Krishna, Sheila Lukehart, Geeta Mehta, Stephen Morse, Juan P. Murillo, Gerald Myers, R. C. Panda, Curtis Patton, Margaret Perkins, Parukutty Pillai, V. S. Ramachandran, Jayanthi Ravi, V. S. Ravi, Miguel Rivera, Violeta Seminario de Rivera, George Riviere,