Environmental historian Dr. Timothy Newfield published new research and was featured in the New York Times!
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, comparisons between current events and historical plagues have been widespread. Despite the tragic impacts of the current pandemic, its death rates are far eclipsed by those of the Black Death, the deadliest pandemic in history. However, new research from Dr. Timothy Newfield suggests that the plague may not have been as universally deadly as previously thought. An environmental historian funded by the Georgetown Environmental Initiative (GEI), Newfield is also an expert in Historical Epidemiology, making him an expert on past pandemics. In a new paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, an ensemble cast of researchers led by Dr. Alessia Masi, Dr. Adam Izdebski, and Dr. Newfield presented data analyzing the mortality of the Black Death through the lens of spatial heterogeneity. Using big data palaeoecology, a new method that allows the researchers to evaluate mortality using historical sediment cores, they found that the Black Death was incredibly deadly in some regions but had almost no effect in others. This finding suggests that cultural, economic, and ecological differences among regions impacted the Black Death far more than previously believed. After publishing the paper, Dr. Newfield wrote a piece in The Conversation and was interviewed for an article in The (new window)New York Times to discuss these incredible findings. We’re so excited to see his work across the net!