Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy

31 Jan 2019

“To eat is human, to digest, divine”: Mark Twain’s characterization of dining seems just to most of us. Yet had he considered food allergies, he would need to have added a postscript. While digesting certain foods is conducive to heavenly pleasures for some, it can mean hellish agony to others. Twain shall be forgiven. Indeed, paediatrician Clemens von Pirquet only coined the term allergy four years before Twain’s passing, namely in 1906; closely followed by Nobel Prize winner and physiologist Charles Richet’s introduction of the term anaphylaxis. Enter Matthew Smith, more than a century later, who joins his former advisor Mark Jackson (Allergy: A History of a Modern Malady and Asthma: The Biography) in exploring the history of allergies. And indeed, Smith commends an illuminating in-depth look at the tumultuous history of one of the more divisive members of the allergy family.