Author(s): Morton Satin
In 2005, the Argonne National Laboratory proved that the great German composer Ludwig van Beethoven died prematurely from lead poisoning. This is just one example of how poisoning, both natural and deliberate, has affected the course of history. Battles have been lost or won - as internationally renowned food expert Morton Satin shows - because of unclean, adulterated food. In this engrossing narrative, Satin spans the ancient world to the present day, documenting events both tragic and bizarre through the ages. In the fifth century B.C.E., the great plague of Athens, probably caused by contaminated cereals, led to the defeat of the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War. In the pre-scientific Middle Ages, illnesses resulting from contaminated food were often attributed to the wrath of God or malevolent spirits. Heavily infectious ergot induced a spasmodic muscle condition, which the Church named "St. Anthony's Fire" and interpreted as retribution by God on heretics. Similarly, in seventeenth-century America the hallucinogenic symptoms of mouldy grain were thought by Puritans to be signs of witchcraft.