Connected: How Trains, Genes, Pineapples, Piano Keys, and a by Steven Cassedy

By Steven Cassedy

Among the tip of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, americans underwent a dramatic transformation in self-conception: having previously lived as contributors or contributors of small groups, they now stumbled on themselves dwelling in networks, which arose out of clinical and technological ideas. there have been transportation and communique networks. there has been the community of the globalized market, which introduced into the yank domestic unique items formerly reasonable to simply a couple of. there has been the community of normal time, which sure jointly all however the such a lot rural americans. there has been the general public well-being move, which joined contributors to their fellow voters by way of making everybody chargeable for the health and wellbeing of every body else. there have been social networks that joined contributors to their fellows on the municipal, country, nationwide, and worldwide degrees. earlier histories of this period concentrate on alienation and dislocation that new applied sciences brought on. This e-book indicates that American contributors during this period have been extra hooked up to their fellow voters than ever—but via bonds that have been relatively sleek.

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Additional resources for Connected: How Trains, Genes, Pineapples, Piano Keys, and a Few Disasters Transformed Americans at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century

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Because this sanitarian phase of the Public Health Movement arrived on the cusp of a truly modern understanding of disease, it mingled empirical evidence with a hefty dose of superstition. Empirical evidence showed that constructing sewers (carefully, of course, so as to prevent the release of miasmas) and purifying drinking water significantly reduced the incidence of certain infectious diseases. It was thought, by extension, that cleanliness, generally speaking, would further contribute to the prevention of disease.

What was needed was science, and that’s what the public got. It was rather heavily distorted by journalistic optimism, to be sure, but then again Metchnikoff ’s entire message was optimism. Even before Metchnikoff began speculating on the possibilities of life prolongation, there already was some science on the subject. The idea was to establish a numerical value for a “normal life,” by which was apparently meant a life luckily untouched by illness or fatal injury. 37 Metchnikoff was more sanguine than his precursors.

But an increase in the “expectation of life” (whether or not members of the public thought about it in those words) simply meant a better chance of making it to an age that, in human history, had always been attainable—just not by a very high percentage of any known population. But what if “old age” itself was a kind of disease, one that modern science could identify and promise at least partially to cure? Then what the public was looking at was the chance not just to make it to a preconceived limit, say 75, or for the extremely rare and lucky, like Stephen Smith, (almost) 100, but to push that limit beyond what had ever been recorded (outside of the Hebrew Scriptures, of course).

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