I’m halfway through reading Gail Jarrow’s new book for middle school and older, Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat.
I find myself admiring the way the author emphasizes the medical mystery involved in figuring out the cause of the disease pellagra, which killed many in the U.S. in the first part of the twentieth century. So far in my reading, she's explored how doctors first responded to the problem and their ideas about what was going on. Was it from eating moldy corn? Was it airborne? Was it the lack of some nutrient as with scurvy? I haven’t reached the answer yet but the focus has shifted to researchers and the increasing importance of public health agencies. Quick descriptions are included throughout of real people who suffered from the disease, often losing their mental capacities and dying.