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Saturday, February 19, 2022

3:15 p.m.

Trinity United Methodist Church

225 West President Street


Lydia Kang, MD & Nate Pedersen


Patient Zero: A Curious History of the World’s Worst Diseases – A very timely history of disease outbreaks, from the authors of Quackery: stories of outbreaks (and their patient zeros), plus chapters on the science, culture, and cures for different types of epidemics and pandemics. Popular reading on a timely topic. From the masters of storytelling-meets-science and co-authors of Quackery, Patient Zero tells the long and fascinating history of disease outbreaks—how they start, how they spread, the science that lets us understand them, and how we race to destroy them before they destroy us. Written in the authors’ lively and accessible style, chapters include page-turning medical stories about a particular disease or virus—smallpox, Bubonic plague, polio, HIV—that combine “Patient Zero” narratives, or the human stories behind outbreaks, with historical examinations of missteps, milestones, scientific theories, and more. Learn the tragic stories of Patient Zeros throughout history, such as Mabalo Lokela, who contracted Ebola while on vacation in 1976, and the Lewis Baby on London’s Broad Street, the first to catch cholera in an 1854 outbreak that led to a major medical breakthrough. Interspersed are origin stories of a different sort—how a rye fungus in 1951 turned a small village in France into a phantasmagoric scene reminiscent of Burning Man. Plus the uneasy history of human autopsy, how the HIV virus has been with us for at least a century, and more.


Lydia Kang is an author of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, and practices internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Her poetry and non-fiction have been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. She is the co-author of Patient Zero: A Curious History of the World’s Worst Diseases as well as Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, an NPR Science Friday Best Science Book of 2017. Her adult historical fiction includes the bestselling novels A Beautiful Poison, The Impossible Girl, Opium and Absinthe, and the forthcoming The Half-Life of Ruby Fielding in May 2022. Her young adult novels include Control, Catalyst, Toxic, and The November Girl, a 2018 Nebraska Book Award winner.

Nate Pedersen’s nonfiction has appeared in wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian, The Believer, and Mental Floss. He is a blogger and regular contributor for Fine Books & Collections magazine. He also edited several Lovecraftian horror anthologies including The Starry Wisdom Library, Sisterhood, and The Dagon Collection. Nate is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and works as the manager of the archival and reference team at Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. He lectures on historical topics around the country.