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February 2014

Pediculosis in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

Author Affiliations
  • 1Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC
  • 2Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Washington Hospital Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(2):162. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.9360

After an unfortunate series of events—namely, torment by the little people of Lilliput, escape, stormy diversion of his voyage home, and, finally, abandonment—Gulliver ends up in Brobdingnag, a curious land occupied by giants, 12 times the size of Gulliver, you, and me. And so, Gulliver has the opportunity (or misfortune) of examining everything and everyone in a more intimate capacity than normally possible. What does he see?

But, the most hateful Sight of all was the Lice crawling on their Cloathes [sic]: I could see distinctly the Limbs of these Vermin with my naked Eye, much better than those of an European Louse through a Microscope; and their Snouts with which they rooted like Swine. They were the first I had ever beheld; and I should have been curious enough to dissect one of them, if I had had proper Instruments (which I unluckily left behind me in the Ship) although indeed the Sight was so nauseous, that it perfectly turned my Stomach.1

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