11 Things You Might Not Know About Philly’s 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic

A series of illustrations depicting the development of yellow fever. | By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/53/e2/580f86274198cf102623e8d9aba4.jpgGallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0074835.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36302200

A series of 19th-century images depicting the development of yellow fever. | Images courtesy of Wellcome Images via Wikimedia Commons

The summer of 1793 was unusually dry and hot in Philadelphia. The city founded by William Penn — the largest in the nation, with some 50,000 residents — was still the capital of the United States, pending completion of the new city of Washington being built to the south. On the Continent, the French were at war with a number of countries, including Great Britain, Spain and Austria; Napoleon Bonaparte had just been appointed artillery commander of the Republican forces at the siege of Toulon. The American people largely supported the Republican cause, though President George Washington hewed to neutrality.

John Adams would later write that 10,000 citizens were marching in Philadelphia’s streets, threatening to drag Washington from his house and force him to “declare war in favor of the French Revolution.” Adams was convinced that only the arrival of the yellow fever prevented complete political chaos. If so, the cost of prevention was fearfully high. Here are 11 things you might not know about the four months of deadly terror that swept our city: Read more »

Penn Vet Students to Star in New Animal Planet Series, Penn Vet

Photo | Penn Vet

Photo | Penn Vet

The next time your new kitty won’t eat and keeps coughing up hairballs, you might want to check the mirror before you rush her off to Penn Vet. Animal Planet just announced a new series featuring “the first-ever behind-the-scenes look at the University of Pennsylvania’s highly competitive veterinary school.” Taking advantage of what it promises is “unprecedented access,” the series, titled (duh) Penn Vet, will shadow students in their fourth and final year as they’re taught and mentored by Penn’s renowned animal docs. Read more »

Drexel Prof Finds Exercise Doesn’t Protect Student Athletes From Depression

The death by suicide of Penn freshman track athlete Madison Holleran in January 2013 rocked the local college sports world and jump-started discussions everywhere about the pressures faced by student athletes. But when Drexel Med professor and Drexel sports team physician Eugene Hong wanted to examine the issue of depression in college athletes, he found very little research on the subject. What there was instead was a general perception that participation in athletics had a protective effect. “Because of our societal and cultural idiosyncrasies,” says Hong, “we equate physical health with mental health.”

Whether that perception was true was what Hong and his fellow researchers wanted to find out. So they performed their own study of 465 athletes at a single East Coast D-1 university. The results, just published in the February issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, showed the same level of clinically relevant depressive symptoms in student athletes as in their non-athlete peers.

That result was surprising, says Hong, whose experience as a team physician dates back nearly two decades, not just because of that societal perception, but also because studies have shown that exercise is a clinically acceptable treatment for depression. Why wasn’t it protecting these college kids?  Read more »

11 Philly Botanists (And One Bad Plant) You Might Not Know

This image taken on July 16, 2012 shows Bartram's Garden with a Franklinia tree in the foreground in Philadelphia | Photo by Lee Reich/AP

This image shows Bartram’s Garden with a Franklinia tree in the foreground. John Bartram named the tree for his friend Benjamin Franklin. | Photo by Lee Reich/AP

Did you know that half the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention here in Philly were farmers? Washington had Mount Vernon, and Jefferson had Monticello; James Madison considered farmers the greatest guardians of public liberty. Our founding fathers were keenly interested in breeding and raising the novel trees, shrubs and flowers around them, and on the banks of the Schuylkill, John Bartram and his family established the nation’s first commercial nursery. (Before the Revolution, Bartram served as King’s Botanist for North America for George III.)

Here, for you to contemplate while you page through seed catalogs and dream of spring, is a brief overview of local botanists who left their mark on our world. Read more »

Local Colleges Still Losing War Against Student Drinking

Pity the poor American institution of higher learning. Student drinking on campuses leads to property damage, arrests, injuries and deaths, hazings, and a tsunami of reports of student sexual assaults. (Research shows that 89 percent of those assaults involve drinking.) A recent study declared Pennsylvania colleges sixth in the nation in alcohol arrests of students, led by Shippensburg, East Stroudsburg, Lehigh, Penn Tech, Penn State and Kutztown — not the sort of high ranking universities crave. So naturally, administrators are doing their damnedest to clamp down on alcohol. At Swarthmore College, for example, new rules — no more hard liquor at school-sponsored parties, no more drinking games like beer pong, no more punch or party bowls — went into effect on campus in the fall of 2014. Students, predictably, were not enthused. “Seriously — can the admin with a straight face — indeed genuinely — defend these rules?” one incredulous undergrad demanded in the student newspaper, the Daily Gazette.

A year and a half later, a new report from Swarthmore’s department of public safety shows that while alcohol incidents at the campus’s three major social events dipped slightly in the first year of the more stringent prohibitions, they’ve since soared to new heights. (Nifty chart here.) Read more »

13 Black Philadelphians Who Were Trailblazers

Clockwise from top left: CBS correspondent Ed Bradley at the 1980 Republican National Convention (AP Photo); Dr. Ethel D. Allen (NIH/Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine); U.S. Rep. Robert N.C. Nix Sr.; Mayor Wilson Goode (Charles Krupa | AP); Rev. Leon Sullivan with President Nixon (Henry Burroughs | AP); Pa. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr. (Peter Morgan | AP)

Clockwise from top left: CBS correspondent Ed Bradley at the 1980 Republican National Convention (AP Photo); Dr. Ethel D. Allen (NIH/Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine); U.S. Rep. Robert N.C. Nix Sr.; Mayor Wilson Goode (Charles Krupa | AP); Rev. Leon Sullivan with President Nixon (Henry Burroughs | AP); Pa. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr. (Peter Morgan | AP).

Sure, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step — but somebody has to take that step. In honor of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., here’s a timeline of a dozen-plus black Philadelphians who paved the way in education, business, politics and more. Read more »

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