Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah

UCSB Arts & Lectures will present Sonia Shah, investigative journalist and acclaimed author of The Fever, in a timely and riveting talk titled “The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years,” at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 18 at UCSB Campbell Hall, as part of A&L’s Speaking of Health series.

Please note that admission for the event is now free. Books will be available for purchase at the event, and a book signing will follow the talk.

In recent years, malaria has emerged as a cause célèbre for voguish philanthropists. Bill Gates, Bono and Laura Bush are only a few of the personalities who have loaned their names — and opened their pocketbooks — in hopes of stopping the disease.

Still, in a time when every emergent disease inspires waves of panic, why haven’t we done more to tame one of our oldest foes? And how does a pathogen that we’ve known how to prevent for more than a century still kill nearly one million people a year?

Shah set out to answer these questions and more in The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, her 2010 “tour-de-force history of malaria” (The New York Times). Through the centuries, we’ve invested our hopes in a panoply of drugs and technologies, and invariably those hopes have been dashed, according to Shah.

From the settling of the New World to the construction of the Panama Canal, through wartimes and the advances of the Industrial Revolution, the author tracks malaria’s jagged ascent and the tragedies in its wake — revealing a parasite every bit as persistent as the insects that carry it.

In her talk at UC Santa Barbara, she will discuss the science and politics behind this fascinating and vexing disease.

— Karna Hughes is a senior writer and publicist for UCSB Arts & Lectures.