Review: Timothy C Winegard – The Mosquito

The Mosquito
Timothy C Winegard

“Why was gin and tonic the cocktail of choice for British colonists in India and Africa? What does Starbucks have to thank for its global domination? What has protected the lives of popes for millennia? Why did Scotland surrender its sovereignty to England? What was George Washington’s secret weapon during the American Revolution? The answer to all these questions, and many more, is the mosquito.”

It’s that time of year where I try to purge the books that haven’t been read in a year from my shelf. Several have somehow missed by rader – perhaps I couldn’t face this one with another epidemic going on. I can think back to the end of 2019 and remember that I was very grateful that COVID-19 wasn’t vector-borne, because that would make it almost impossible to eradicate. Unfortunately, life a year on suggests that there is still more disease to deal with (as I write this review, the first vaccines are being administered in the USA).

Nevertheless, this is an interesting, if somewhat dense, book about vector-borne diseases – specifically those transmitted by mosquitoes. I somehow didn’t get past the introduction and first chapter, probably because my background as a mosquito scientist. There is a focus on malaria, which is of course the most ‘popular’ disease. My own mosquito-borne disease choice is dengue, so I wasn’t as wrapped in it. Dengue is an emerging epidemic, so it’s not really mentioned in here.

The chapter titles of this book are quite inspired! Unfortunately, for me it eventually turned out that I didn’t finish reading it. It truly was a history rather than a science-filled narrative of the mosquito. I’m just not that keen on history (coming from someone who thought that the ‘cold war’ was cold because it snows in Russian…).

A really cool fact I learn from this book was that malaria was used in the 1920s to treat syphilis! The guy that thought of the idea got a Nobel prize, and so people would line up to be given malaria in order to treat their STI. Then a couple of years later we discovered antibiotics, thank goodness!

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a hardback at this price point, but sadly it isn’t. It’s solid book that is going to be the perfect gift for someone who loves history.

Text Publishing | 20 October 2019 | AU$32.99 | paperback