altho’ these facts [about the nature of the yellow fever] are now palpable to every unprejudiced observer, yet the disposition in men to schismatize [divide into strongly opposed camps] & dispute, has produced some contradiction to them … among the advantages to be derived from the progress of science, I am happy to observe that chemistry promises a more speedy & effectual mode of disinfecting the air of contagious houses & vessels than the oppressive practice of Quarentine a barbarous continuation of antient ignorance & habit.
Thomas Jefferson to Giovanni Fabbroni, April 30, 1806
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know facts won’t convince some people.
Fabbroni (1752-1822), was an Italian scientist with specialties in agronomy and chemistry. He and Jefferson had been friends and correspondents for 30 years. Jefferson offered what was known about the yellow fever in America, so Fabbroni could compare it with similar illnesses in Italy. Unfortunately, people had a natural inclination to ignore the facts and dispute those who disagreed.
Still believing the cause of the disease to be foul air, the science-minded Jefferson held that chemistry, an attempt to change the environment, would be a more effective cure than quarantine, an attempt to change human behavior.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience.