Wesleyan Institute of Lifelong Learning


Epidemics: Past and Present

Infectious diseases affect both individuals and communities and are socialas well as biological events. Societies have a way of responding to epidemics;there is an epidemic response that can be invoked. The objective of ourplanned program is to look at how historians view epidemics and then considerour own history in both New England and Middletown for examples.
John Adams called smallpox “The King of Terrors.” Deadly and incurable,its outbreaks devastated New England colonists and nearly wipedout the region’s Native Americans. Our exploration of American epidemics will include smallpox and other lethal diseases like diphtheria, typhoid fever, and the 1918 influenza epidemic that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
We will discuss how epidemics affected communities like Middletown as well as the nation as a whole. And we will address the question: Are we prepared for the next pandemic? The day will end with a bus tour to local places associated with epidemics and will feature stories of Middletown victims and the doctors and nurses who fought to save them.

Matthew Cartter, MD, MPH; Michael R. Grey, MD, MPH; & Dione Longley

Allbritton Center, Room 311 | $110

9:15–9:30 A.M. Registration, Coffee

9:30–10:30 A.M. Plagues and Peoples Redux: Historical Observations on the Social Context of Epidemic Disease

10:30–11:30 A.M. Responding to Epidemic Disease: Smallpox and Influenza in Connecticut

11:30 A.M.–12:30 P.M. Death Stalks Middletown: How Local People Fought Disease, 1650–1920

12:30–1:15 P.M. Lunch (provided)

1:15–3 P.M. Guided bus tour of burial sites and pest houses, with stories of medical people who engaged in the struggle for control.

 3 P.M. Return to Church Street

Time will be provided for discussions and a morning break.

Course Instructor

MATTHEW CARTTER, MD, , MPH, WESLEYAN ’76, is the state epidemiologist for the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health. He is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Community Medicine and Health Care at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and an associate clinical professor of epidemiology and public health at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he teaches a course for master of public health students on acute disease outbreak investigations. Dr. Cartter is a past president of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. His research interests include the history of epidemics.

MICHAEL R. GREY, MD, MPH, is a practicing primary care internist, occupational medicine specialist, and medical historian. Currently, he is the executive medical director for primary care at the Western Connecticut Medical Group. For 15 years, he served on the faculty of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where he achieved the rank of professor of medicine. He has authored many articles and two books, New Deal Medicine and The Bioterrorism Sourcebook. Dr. Grey received his medical degree from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and his undergraduate degree from Harvard College.

DIONE LONGLEY, WESLEYAN ’82 worked in the curatorial department of the Connecticut Historical Society and for two decades was the Middlesex County Historical Society director. She annotated The Old
Leather Man (Wesleyan University Press) with Peter Zaidel and is writing a book on Connecticut in the Civil War.