Ford Hall Forum: Laura Spinney on How the 1918 Spanish Flu Changed the World

THU, OCT 7, 2021

Laura Spinney, internationally acclaimed science journalist and author, will discuss her latest non-fiction title, “Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World.”

In the book, Spinney examines the enduring effects of the pandemic flu, which killed over 50 million people worldwide, and society’s response: how it altered global politics, race relations, family structures, and thinking across medicine, religion, and the arts. Spinney will discuss the parallels or lack thereof between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19, what we can learn from history, how pandemics begin and how they end, and our tendency to forget pandemics.

The afternoon’s moderator is Udodiri R. Okwandu, Presidential Scholar, Harvard University.

+ BIO: Udodiri Okwandu

Udodiri Okwandu is a doctoral candidate in the History of Science Department, with a secondary in African and African American Studies and a Presidential Scholar at Harvard University. She is interested in the history of medicine and public health, history of gender and sexuality, and critical race theory in the United States. She is particularly interested in the ways in which scientific and medical inquiry have been deployed by the state to manage and control marginalized populations.

Orginally from Southern California, Udodiri completed her undergraduate studies in 2017 at Harvard College where she graduated cum laude with an AB in the History of science (with a focus in Mind, Brain, and Behavior) and a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. Her senior thesis, which won the Thomas T. Hoopes Prize, an award which recognizes outstanding scholarly work or research by students selected by a committee of faculty from Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, examined the medicalization and racialization of Civil Rights protests in the 1960s, contextualizing it with the rise of law and order political ideology.

+ BIO: Laura Spinney

Laura Spinney is an author and science journalist. She has published two novels in English, The Doctor (Methuen, 2001) and The Quick (Fourth Estate, 2007). Her third book of non-fiction, Rue Centrale, came out in 2013 from Editions L’Age d’Homme (in French and in English), and her fourth, a tale of the Spanish flu called Pale Rider, was published by Jonathan Cape in June 2017. Derborence: Where the devils came down, her translation of Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz’s best-loved novel, was published by Skomlin (formerly Onesuch) Press in 2018. Her literary agent is Natasha Fairweather of Rogers, Coleridge & White in London. She also writes on science for National Geographic, The Economist, Nature, New Scientist and The Telegraph among others. She lives in Paris.

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