On researching the Black Plague I have a few times run into the name of "Heckler" who supposedly is the source for the information that 25% of the population of Europe was killed by the plague. For example, one mention is as follows:

The black death, which visited London in the fourteenth century, is now merely of historic interest; yet it reminds us of a period when there were no hospitals, no buildings in which the plague-stricken could be separated from the healthy, no scientific physicians, no trained nurses; in short, no effective means whatever for combating a scourge which terrified a people for six years, and according to the chronicler Heckler, paralyzed morals, religion and education, and resulted in a collapse of civilization which continued to be felt for generations. (Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 59, Issue 19, p. 1672.)

Unfortunately, none of the citations give any further information about this person and I can find no record in English or German bibliographies of a chronologist or medical statistician named Heckler. Does anybody know who this guy was?


Found him. He was Justus Friedrich Carl Hecker (1795 – 1850), doctor and professor at the Frederick William University in Berlin. His essay on the plague was "Der schwarze Tod im vierzehnten Jahrhundert: Nach den Quellen für Ärzte und gebildete Nichtärzte bearbeitet." According to the Wikipedia he is the founder of the study of the history of disease.

Note that the English sources generally misquote his name as HECKLER with an "L" (and then copy each other's mistake), so it was hard to find him since his name is HECKER not HECKLER.

  • That is what the internet is all about: the dissemination of counter-knowledge. – fdb Dec 9 '14 at 19:25
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    "Die Tanzwuth, eine Volkskrankheit im Mittelalter: nach den Quellen für Aerzte und gebildete Nichtärzte bearbeitet." == "The dance craze, a national sickness in the middle ages: Reworked for doctors and educated non-doctors" Boy am I lucky to have been vaccinated, wouldn't want to catch that – user45891 Dec 9 '14 at 20:05
  • @fdb - Sadly, in a lot of cases the internet just makes this kind of error happen faster. I've lately been shocked and appalled how much various websites brainlessly copy verbatim from each other. – T.E.D. Dec 9 '14 at 20:09
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    @user45891. In English it is called tarantism. – fdb Dec 9 '14 at 20:30
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    @fdb - Or "boogie fever". We had a really nasty outbreak of it in 1976. – T.E.D. Dec 9 '14 at 20:51

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