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Rotch Library Exhibit

Paradigm Shift in Infectious Diseases

Exhibition on the scientific method and science advances via comics and illustration

December 4, 2023 - December 15, 2023

Panel Discussion December 5, 2023

Paradigm Shift in Infectious Diseases showcases the example of evolution of ideas in science through the example of infectious disease transmission from ancient Greece to current times, and through the use of comics and illustration.

The overall broader goal is showcase the scientific method in action and the non-incremental shift in paradigms in science through a range of historical examples, and to put in perspective shifts in paradigms in more recent times, for example in the public health application of infectious diseases and pandemic science.

The exhibit is envisioned as a unified story bringing different epistemic cultures of disease transmission research across time: people who enabled the emergence of new paradigms in disease transmission research, the material culture of disease transmission research (instruments, materials, laboratory conditions, experimental process), the theoretical culture (development of theories to explain disease transmission through Physics and mathematics) and visual culture (optical data, drawings, cartoons, illustration) together.

The central visual narrative of the exhibit is an adventure story in which Porf. Lydia Bourouiba and Argha Manna, a cartoonist and journalist, are time travelling and roaming across the globe to witness how and by whom the paradigm-shifting ideas of disease transmission research were carried forward. The story’s narrative structure offers an attempt to make a bridge between academic research, evolution of ideas, and the history of science communicated via a multi-layered medium of Comics and fiction.

Since the basic philosophy of the comics is understanding scientific paradigm, epistemic shifts and science-in-making, philosophers including Thomas Kuhn, Michael Foucault and Bruno Latour join Prof. Bourouiba and Manna on their travels. Concepts are illustrated based on other examples in physics, of evolution of paradigms, e.g., model of the solar system and Copernicus.

Alongside the comics, the exhibit showcases four other units: an illustrated story of evolution in techniques, materials and instruments, portraits of important figures who played pivotal roles in the evolution of disease transmission research with different paradigms, original hand-drawn artworks and preparatory sketches.


The exhibition is an outcome of collaborative research between Prof. L. Bourouiba and Argha Manna.

  • Prof. Bourouiba heads the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory at MIT.
  • Arghs Manna is currently working as a faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and ART@IITGN at IIT Gandhinagar, India. Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) funded this project.


  • Bourouiba, L. (2021) Fluid dynamics of respiratory infectious diseases. Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering. 23:547-577
  • Bourouiba, L. (2021) The fluid dynamics of disease transmission. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics. 53:473-508
  • Bourouiba, L. (2020) Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Pathogen Emissions: Potential Implications for Reducing Transmission of COVID-19. Journal of the American Medical Association. AMA Published online March 26. 2020.
  • Jones, N, R., Queshi, Z., Temple, R., Larwood, J. P. J., Greenhalgh, T., and Bourouiba, L. (2020) 2 metres or 1? What is the evidence base for physical distancing in the context of COVID-19? The British Medical Journal (BMJ). The British Medical Journal (BMJ). 370:m3223.
  • Scharfman B. E., Techet A. H., Bush J. W. M. and Bourouiba L. (2016) Visualization of sneeze ejecta: steps of fluid fragmentation leading to respiratory droplets. Experiments in Fluids. 57:24.
  • Bourouiba, L. (2016) A Sneeze. New England Journal of Medicine. 357(8):e15.
  • Bourouiba L., Dehandschoewercker, E., and Bush, J. W. M. (2014) Violent respiratory events: on coughing and sneezing. Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 745:537-563.
  • Verheyen, C., and Bourouiba, L. (2022) Associations between indoor relative humidity and global COVID-19 outcomes. Journal of Royal Society Interface. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 19 (196), 20210865.
  • Randall, K. and Ewing, E. T. and Marr, L. and Jimenez, J. and Bourouiba, L. (2021) How Did We Get Here: What Are Droplets and Aerosols and How Far Do They Go? A Historical Perspective on the Transmission of Respiratory Infectious Diseases. Journal of the Royal Society Interface Focus. 11:20210049.
  • Nutton V. (1983) The seeds of disease: an explanation of contagion and infection from the Greeks to the Renaissance. Med Hist. 27(1):1-34. doi: 10.1017/s0025727300042241.
  • Wells WF. (1955) Airborne contagion and air hygiene: an ecological study of droplet infection. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Kuhn, T. S. (1962). “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2012.
  • Foucault, M.(1966). “The Order of Things”. London: Routledge, 2005.
  • Bruno Latour B (1987). “Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society”. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.