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Medical History, Digital Humanities, and Data Analysis: Exploring the Impact of the Russian Flu 1889-1890

December 4, 2015

Faculty members and students from Virginia Tech will present the preliminary results of their research from the “Tracking the Russian Flu in U.S. and German Medical and Popular Reports, 1889-1893” project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities-German Research Foundation Bilateral Digital Humanities Program.  This project examines US and German medical discussion and popular reporting during the Russian influenza epidemic, from its outbreak in late 1889 through the successive waves that lasted through 1893. The presentations will explore how a worldwide epidemic can be studied at every level from the microbial through the individual, communal, regional, national, and global. The project uses historical materials, including digitized medical journals from the period, the 1890 US Census, the Chronicling America collection of digitized United States newspapers, and the Austrian National Library collection of digitized Austrian newspapers, to develop, apply, and evaluate new methods for computational epidemiology through applications such as word and term distribution analysis, fact extraction, sentiment analysis, network analysis and data visualization.

Research Presentations:

Will It Come Here? Tracking the Spread of Russian Flu in the U.S.
Brock Wolf, Ashley Ireland, Lindsay Kengerski, and Carolyn Carrithers

All this Talk about that Malady: Doctors’ Opinions about Influenza
Jay Pandya, Haitham Mawari, Brett Newman, and Allison Hurley

Who Counts? Examining Mortality Statistics in a Historical Context
Vini Dhindsa, Deepika Darivemula, and Sage Foh

Scarcely a Family has Escaped the Epidemic: Influenza in Vienna
J.B. Potter and Tom Ewing

Roundtable Discussion:

Jeffrey Reznick, Chief, History of Medicine Division, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

Deborah Thomas, Program Manager, Chronicling America, US Library of Congress

David M. Morens, Senior Advisor to the Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health

Jennifer Serventi, Senior Program Officer, Office of Digital Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington DC

Seth Denbo, Director of Digital Initiatives, American Historical Association, Washington, DC

Naren Ramakrishnan, Professor of Computer Science, Director, Discovery Analytics Center, Virginia Tech, Arlington, VA


All presentations and discussions free and open to the public.

For more information regarding this event:

Time: 9:30 am

Contact: E. Thomas Ewing, Virginia Tech Website:
Virginia Tech Research Center
900 N. Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22203
United States
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