More than 20 million people died from the disease Yersinia pestis
caused from 1347-1350. However humans are always accidental
victims. The fleas that transfer the bacteria prefer rodents and move on
to humans only after their original host has died and become cold.
Photo: The Learning Company
Yersina pestis is
named so because of its discovery by Swiss microbiologist Alexandre
Yersin. Yersin studied at Pasteur Institute in France. In
1894 he isolated the pestis bacillus and concocted a treatment
for what had been named Pasteurella pestis, after his institution
of higher education, but which was later renamed as Yersinia pestis.
later proved that plague is transmitted by fleas.
play song "Ring Around the Rosie" was actually created because of the
Black Death. "Ring around the Rosie" is in reference to the rings
around the bite of the flea. During that time people were carrying
flowers called posies in their pockets to ward off the pungent smell of
the plague. So many people were cremated at that time, which is
where "ashes, ashes" comes from and falling down was a metaphor for the
death of the sufferer.
Photo: Library of Congress
Click here to see a slideshow of pictures from the plague of the middle