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March 2001
Vol. 4, No. 3, p 9.
from our readers
MDD Nov/Dec Cover
Deadly serious ditty

The articles about bubonic plague in the November/December 2000 issue were very informative (Time Line, p 75; Diseases and Disorders, p 96). I remember learning the ditty about it, which you quote on page 76, as a child. In our version, the verse was:
“Ring around the rosies
Pocket full of posies
Atchoo, atchoo
We all fall down.”

The different third line [versus “Ashes, ashes”—Ed.] is more in keeping with the symptoms of pneumonic plague, as discussed on page 96; but over the years, I daresay there have been many versions of the poem.

I believe that the “ring around the rosies” refers to the skin marks that those affected develop and that the “posies” are handkerchiefs, which either were carried by victims, or, more likely, were covered with a fragrance and held up to the face by those not yet afflicted.

Mike Turnbull
Syngenta, Jealott’s Hill Research Centre
Bracknell, U.K.

Another social view

Your Time Line article “Bring out your dead” (November/December 2000, p 75) was enlightening in many ways, some probably unintended. For example, you mention that the University of Florence replaced the study of logic with the study of rhetoric and language and this change was responsible for humanism. The connection between the change from the study of the science of reason to that of the art of talking and the modern social plague of humanism was probably unintended, but enlightening nonetheless.

Equally enlightening was the implied admiration for the presumed early attempt at social engineering by governments in order to “regulate” public health. Apparently, the broad powers arrogated by these government bodies to “protect society” yielded the same results we see today: The authorities are still losing the power to control the violent excesses of the masses as well as their freedom. What could have been an entertaining glimpse into history was marred by the socialist and humanist slant used so often today to rewrite history to fit today’s political agenda. More than one peril is seen in this article.

Louis Darling
O’Fallon, IL

On MRI’s discovery

In The Pharmaceutical Century, page 120, it states: “In June 1970, Raymond V. Damadian at the State University of New York discovered that cancerous tissue in rats exhibited dramatically prolonged NMR relaxation times. . . . Damadian’s March 1971 Science article, ‘Tumor Detection by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance’, became the basis for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)’s pioneer patent, issued to him in 1974.”

The complete, and I believe accurate, account of the story about Damadian’s “discovery” has been told in a book by Donald P. Hollis, Abusing Cancer Science: The Truth About NMR and Cancer (Strawberry Fields Press: Chehalis, WA, 1987). I suggest that the authors of The Pharmaceutical Century article read chapters 13–15 before publishing any more on the discovery of MRI.

Robert E. Botto

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