wise, the French coined the word “paludisme,” whose root means swamp, to refer to malaria.

Saint Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury, died from what was almost certainly malaria in 597 A.D. Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet, died of malignant fever in 1321 A.D. Peter the Great was so upset by the fever-related illness and death that plagued his Russian army in Persia in the early 1720s that he ordered them to stop eating melons, which he believed caused the sickness.

Kings, popes, and paupers alike have been stricken by this parasite-caused disease. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V died of malaria in a monastery in Yuste, Spain, in 1558. Pope Sixtus V died of “marsh fever” in 1590, as did his successor, Urban VII. During the Conclave of 1623, 8 cardinals and 30 scribes and secretaries died of malaria-induced fever, while other members in attendance fell ill (Celli, 1925). In England, King James I, King Charles II, and Cardinal Wolsey all suffered from intermittent fevers consistent with malaria.


Malaria may or may not have been present in the pre-Columbian New World. Some scholars argue that the disease was introduced to the Americas by people who migrated from malaria-endemic regions in Asia, across the now submerged land bridge, into North America. Early European visitors to South America noted the Indian use of cinchona bark, a natural source of quinine, to treat fevers, further supporting the view that malaria may have predated European expeditions to the New World. Whether or not European exploration and colonization of the Americas introduced malaria, they most certainly facilitated the spread of the disease.


Malaria was one of the most widespread and debilitating diseases of early North America, significantly impeding the development of the colonies (Duffy, 1953). The English introduced two species of malaria, Plasmodium vivax and P. malariae, when they settled Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, but it was the importation of African slaves beginning in 1620 that brought the more virulent P. falciparum to the continent (Russell, 1968). Indeed, it is thought that the decision in 1699 to move the capital from Jamestown to Williamsburg was motivated by the desire to escape the effects of malaria.

Boston was particularly hard hit by malaria-related illness and death in the seventeenth century. In 1699, Samuel Maverick of New York wrote, “The flux, agues, and fevers, have much rained both in cittie and country,

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