An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner

By James Thomas Flexner | Go to book overview

40
The Black Death

As 1900 merged into 1901, Flexner received an imperative call from the federal government. Although it was a compliment to his skill both as a scientist and a negotiator, he found his appointment as chairman of the Plague Commission “not too welcome.”1 He knew that it would interrupt the cresting flow of his affairs in Philadelphia. But he did not foresee that it would place his life in danger.

The question to be determined was whether the Black Death of horrible memory was menacing California and by extension the entire United States. The specific assignment was to find out whether bubonic plague was building up in the Chinatown section of San Francisco. The very gravity of the potential danger had engendered in California a hysterical controversy concerning the presence or absence of the disease. The state government was embroiled with the city board of health, physicians of different ages and training were shouting insults at each other, and the business interests were divided: some were more afraid of a possible epidemic, others of the financial effect on California of a plaguescare.

Watching from Washington, Dr. Walter Wyman, surgeon general of the Marine Hospital Service, had become increasingly worried for the national safety. The Black Death had changed the history of Europe in the fourteenth century by killing three quarters of the population, and it had been scientifically determined that an irresistible epidemic could be set off by such small beginnings as had supposedly been diagnosed in Chinatown. Wyman persuaded his superior, the Secretary of the Treasury, to appoint a commission that would cut through local controversy

-366-

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An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations (between Pages 238–239) xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • I - New Americans 1
  • 1 - Bohemia — Strasbourg — Kentucky 3
  • 2 - Germany — Paris — Kentucky 11
  • 3 - Simon Flexner, Delinquent 21
  • 4 - Hard Times 32
  • 5 - Simon Flexner, Unemployable 39
  • 6 - New Departures 44
  • II - Old Americans 51
  • 7 - Puritan to Quaker 53
  • 8 - Manumission and Aftermath 60
  • 9 - The Midnight Cry 70
  • 10 - Testimony against War 77
  • 11 - Private Intercourse with God 84
  • 12 - A Young Marriage 93
  • III - The Long Road Upward 101
  • 13 - The Gate Opens 103
  • 14 - Jacob’s Drugstore 108
  • 15 - Microscope with Wings 114
  • 16 - An Unprepared Student and a New University 120
  • 17 - Pathways for Escape 131
  • IV - Privileges and Traumas 141
  • 18 - Helen’s Childhood 143
  • 19 - Evangelists 156
  • 20 - Helen Growing 166
  • 21 - Sexual Divisions 174
  • 22 - Sexual Revulsion 181
  • 23 - Catastrophe 188
  • V - Miraculous Destiny 197
  • 24 - A New Life Starts 199
  • 25 - Settling in at the Hopkins 210
  • 26 - Breaking Trail 218
  • 27 - Rising 225
  • 28 - Danger at the Crossroads 236
  • 29 - Mission to the Philippines 276
  • 30 - The Further Adventures of Abraham 286
  • VI - Chiaroscuro 295
  • 31 - Seesaw 297
  • 32 - Entrapments and Escapes 308
  • 33 - Exploding Horizons 316
  • 34 - Friday’s Hill 326
  • 35 - Death of a Father 336
  • 36 - The Vellum Sanctuary 339
  • VII - Approaching Lives 347
  • 37 - Settling in at Philadelphia 349
  • 38 - Helen Thomas and Bertrand Russell 356
  • 39 - A Lion in Philadelphia 361
  • 40 - The Black Death 366
  • 41 - The Valley of Despair 373
  • 42 - Enter the Rockefeller Institute 382
  • 43 - An Offer and a Refusal 393
  • 44 - Abraham and Anne 403
  • VIII - Joining Together 415
  • 45 - Consummations 417
  • 46 - Great Changes 427
  • 47 - Lucy and Other Troubles 438
  • 48 - A Hectic Departure 448
  • 49 - The Mildness of a Strong Love 457
  • IX - Conclusion 463
  • 50 - The Later Years 465
  • Acknowledgments Acknowledgments for the Use of Photographs Cast of Family Characters Bibliography Abbreviations Used in the Source References Source References 479
  • Acknowledgments 481
  • Acknowledgments for the Use of Photographs 483
  • Cast of Family Characters 485
  • Bibliography 489
  • Abbreviations Used in the Source References 501
  • Source References 503
  • Index 517
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