Author: George Christakos,Ricardo A. Olea,Marc L. Serre,Hwa-Lung Yu,Lin-Lin Wang
Publisher: Springer Science & Business Media
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This book introduces a novel synthetic paradigm of public health reasoning and epidemic modelling, and then implements it in the study of the infamous 14th century AD Black Death disaster that killed at least one-fourth of the European population. The book starts by focusing on the intellectual context in which epidemic research takes place, in a way that accounts for the interdisciplinary and multicultural trends of the emerging Conceptual Age. The authors maintain that for public health scientists to function in an often complex environment, they should be aware of the divergent conceptions of knowledge and the technological changes that these imply, the multiple and often uncertain databases available and their reliability, the different styles of thinking adopted by the disciplines involved, and the importance of developing sound interdisciplinary knowledge integration skills. A unique feature of the book is that it takes the reader through all four major phases of interdisciplinary inquiry: adequate conceptualization (in terms of metaphors, methodological principles, epistemic rules, and argumentation modes), rigorous formulation (involving sophisticated mathematical models), substantive interpretation (in terms of correspondence principles between form and meaning), and innovative implementation (using advanced systems technology and multi-sourced real world databases). This approach is then applied to scientifically advance the spatiotemporal characterization of the Black Death epidemic, thus going beyond the sensationalistic narration of events found in other publications. The book includes the most complete collection of interdisciplinary information sources available about the Black Death epidemic, each one systematically documented, tabulated, and analyzed. It also presents, for the first time, a series of detailed space-time maps of Black Death mortality, infected area propagation, and epidemic centroid paths throughout the 14th century AD Europe. Preparation of the maps took into account the uncertain nature of the data and integrated a variety of interdisciplinary knowledge bases about the devastating epidemic. These maps provide researchers and the interested public with an informative and substantive description of the Black Death dynamics (temporal evolution, local and global geographical patterns, etc.), and can help one discover an underlying coherence in disease distribution that was buried within reams of contemporary evidence that had so far defied quantitative understanding. The book carefully analyzes the findings of synthetic space-time modelling that enlighten considerably the long-lasting controversy about the nature and origins of the Black Death epidemic. Comparisons are made between the spatiotemporal characteristics of Black Death and bubonic plague, thus contributing to the debate concerning the Black Death etiology. Since Black Death had grave societal, public health, and financial effects, its rigorous study can offer valuable insight into these effects, as well as into similar effects that could result from potential contemporary epidemics.