I was born in November, 1955 in New York City (specifically in The Bronx) and was raised a native New Yorker. A childhood fascination with science stayed with me and I alternatively planned on becoming a physicist, paleontologist, archeologist, or ornithologist when I grew up. The birthday gift of a pair of binoculars and a copy of Roger Tory Peterson's "Field Guide to the Birds" crystallized my science jones and I devoted myself to bird biology.
After high school at the Bronx High School of Science, I headed off to Oberlin College and then to the University of Florida where I discovered the joy of physiology! I then changed my mind about becoming an ornithologist and got a PhD in Physiology at Indiana University instead. I followed that with post-doctoral work in Dr. Donald Jackson's lab at Brown University where I researched respiratory and cardiovascular physiology of turtles. I then spent a year and a half as a Gastwissenschaftler at the Max-Planck-Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen where I discovered the joy of Germany!
After joining the faculty at Texas A&M University in 1993 and setting up a research lab, I transitioned in mid-career from research to primarily teaching. In 2004, I began to develop and lead study abroad programs focusing on the history of human and veterinary medicine.
I now spend 8 months of the year in Europe with my students. I'm now busy developing research projects focused on the history of medicine and biotechnology and I amuse myself with travel, studying German, memorizing poetry and Biersprüche, singing, mountain biking, hiking, and cross country skiing.
About Dr. Schnabel
The Black Plague first arrived in Europe around the middle of the 14th century and then regularly returned, killing millions, until petering out for the most part by 1800 or so.
Dr. Schnabel is a Pestarzt, a plague doctor, dressed in his work clothes circa 17th-18th century. The long, black gown was typically of waxed cloth or waxed leather to help fend off the "sticky sparks of plague". The famous beaked mask contained aromatic spices also thought to ward off plague and which, at least, made the stench of the dead and dying easier for the Herr Doktor to bear. The hat indicated that we were dealing with a medical man here although many plague doctors were not particularly well-trained as physicians or, in some cases, not trained at all. The stick was to keep his patients at arms length while being examined!
There was, of course, nothing that plague doctors of that time could really do for someone with the Black Death as they had no understanding of either the microorganism responsible for the disease (Yersinia pestis) or its life cycle and mode of transmission (flea vectors living on rats).
Dr. Schnabel graciously assists me during my visits to Vienna with my study abroad students and shares his historical and medical knowledge as well as his experiences with us.