Hans Zinsser (November 17, – September 4, ) was an American physician, for Nonfiction voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. He is remembered especially for his book, Rats, Lice, and History. Rats, Lice and History by Hans Zinsser, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. Available in: Paperback. When Rats, Lice and History appeared in , Hans Zinsser was a highly regarded Harvard biologist who had never.

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Not for a moment is it non-scientific; in fact he unqualifiedly discounts the rzts scientist angle as misleading. There was a problem adding your email address. Hans Zinsserborn Nov.

Hans Zinsser – Wikipedia

As much as I dislike to give this book such a low rating, I feel that I must. So I should just give it one star and move on with my life, right?

Written in as a latter-day variation on Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Zinsser’s book jans a picaresque account of how the history of the world has been shaped by epidemics of louseborne typhus Review quote -Zinsser’s account of lice and men remains a delight.

The Republic Charles Beard.

This classic was well-received in its day and is still regarded as an important treatise. Zinsser begins by pointing out that the louse was the constant companion of human beings.

Rats, Lice and History : Hans Zinsser :

Society and Personality Tamotsu Shibutani. At the start of the decade, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, and Lou Reed were among the hopeful young songwriters walking the warrenlike corridors and knocking on the glass-paneled doors of publishers in the Brill Building and its neighbours along Broadway.

The author’s style of writing and comments on current events hisrory intriguing. Thanks for zinsset us about the problem.

I think my grandmother gave it to me because she thought the title was amusing. Quotes from Rats, Lice, and H Throughout his career he was also a professor at Stanford University as well as Harvard University. Concerning the sex-life of the louse, Dr. This book prepared me for when I rafs the essays of Lewis Thomas in ‘The Lives of a Ce I received a copy of this book as a gift when I was in high school. I read this in high school because it was on the Indiana University list of books students should read and loved it.


I think Zinsser was ahead of his time and if published anew now this would play well in the microhistory realm Mark Kurlanskyetc. Snd you are interested in these topics as I am this is interesting and amusing in part because of Zinsser’s very obvious attempt to demonstrate his own breadth of interest and knowledgeif not what you’d expect in a book like this.

He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and has been the president of the American Association for the History of Medicine.

View all 3 comments. I especially liked the anx of Justinian’s plague hostory the arrival of syphilis from the New World in the Columbian Exchange. Apr 05, Michael rated it it was amazing Shelves: Ostensibly, a “biography of typhus”, the disease is not directly tackled biographically until Chapter XII aftr side treks and apologies and then rushed through from the disease’s 15th Century emergence verifiably in the 15th Century.

Continuously in print since its first publication inwith The classic chronicle of the impact disease and plagues have had on history and society over the past half-millennium.

Huge areas have bee devastated by the trypanosome that travels on the wings of the tsetse fly, and generations have been harassed by the syphilis of a courtier. Zinsser was inspired by Tristram Shandy in writing his rambling, preambling “biography” of typhus, digging out interesting but unrelated topics when they interest him, burrowing around history for the first signs of its existence. The Crusades, affected by pestilence in general if not typhus, get an overview along with plagues of the Old Testament era.

I found zknsser first 12 chapters more interesting than those on the disease itself partly because of an aversion to things medicalbut there’s no doubt that his writing can still be amusing and interesting.


The first several or so chapters are a defense for why a doctor should be able to write a work of literature. This has been, either perfect or to some extent, achieved by ants and by bees, by some birds, and by some of the fishes in the sea.

You can’t read it in one sitting, because you’ll have to keep taking breaks to calm down from the experience. Although he had published under a pseudonym, virtually all of his previous writings had dealt with infections and immunity and had appeared either in medical and scientific journals or in book format.

The first person to see microorganisms was probably the Dutch naturalist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who in described some animalcules, as they…. Hans Zinsser – physician, scientist, war hero, and author – wrote a book inwhich he titled, with mock yet informative pretension: Hans Zinsser has created an eccentric view of history, rambling about rats, typhus, the Roman Empire, lice, and everything.


I read this when I was in high school, and it influenced my thinking and choices later. Zinsser weaves history, social commentary, and epidemiology in an intriguing tale that makes the subject of typhus understandable to almost any reading ability. After many non-sequitors about a variety of topics Thanks to Happyreader, I realized my review of this book is associated with a totally obscure and out-of-print edition. About Hans Zinsser Hans Zinsser received his doctorate at Columbia University and also was an instructor of bacteriology at Columbia University.

Sigerist Professor of the History of Medicine emeritus. Jul 01, Daphne rated it it was amazing. I keep up with developments in microbiology as a hobby, although I don’t normally do hobbies which are usually associated with pastimes such as chess, knitting and cookery In his view, infectious disease simply represented an attempt of a living organism to survive.

Zinnser’s romp through the ancient and modern worlds describes how epidemics devastated the Byzantines under Justinian, put Charles V atop the Holy Roman Empire, stopped the Turks at the Carpathians, and turned Napolean’s “Grand Armee “back from Moscow. There was a problem with your submission. For a book the author calls a biography of Typhus it discusses everything from the difference between science and art to multiple other plagues and their effects on history before briefly introducing the reader to the subject for a short period that still wildly tangents.

Contains the best footnote ever: Rats, Lice, and History should be read by anyone who is interested in history, biology, or literature.

I am absolutely stumped on how to review this book. After many non-sequitors about a variety of topics, the author finally gets around to explaining, in engaging, lucid detail, why human history is actually the history of bacterias, viruses, fleas, lice, and, yes, the occasional rat.

I first read it 28 years ago, and re-read often.