JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 1010
Tuberculosis has been killing people in its nasty, eat-you-alive-from-within way, for thousands of years. TB (for tubercles bacillus), also known as consumption (for just those properties mentioned), phthsis and scrofula, was the cause for every fourth death in early industrial age England (1815), and tended to nest among the urban poor. It really wasn't well understood until the 19th century. when it was first actually named as a disease (by J.L. Schoenbein, 1839), and it wasn't identified as contagious for another 42 years or so. The bacillus causing
tuberculosis wasn't identified until 1882 (by Robert Koch, who wound up getting the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in 1905), and although some early forms of immunization began as early as the first decade of the 20th century, it really wasn't until just after WWII that immunization and antibiotic treatment bean in earnest.
There have been many ways of dealing with the disease in the history of man and mythology, but prior to the late 1940's the mainstay of effective treatment for TB was isolation (or collection of affected in "clean air" sanitoria) or penumothorax--there wasn't much that could be done with this mass murderer.
And so it came to be that Dr. Karl Arnstein (a significant engineer and the chief designer of the U.S. Navy airships USS Akron and USS Macon) proposed this flying hospital ship---a 6.5 million cubic foot airship, actually. The hospital was "a blister on the skin" of the airship, occupying very little of the entire surface area, looking as though it might be able to accommodate 75 or so patients, staying aloft for weeks at a time--there would even be an aircraft in the belly of the beast that could be released to fetch supplies from time to time (though I don't kow how the whole return trip would work). The airship was intended to follow the sun, skirting clouds and bad weather, keeping the TB patients "in the health rays of the sun" to help cure them of their disease. It was an odd and desperate idea, which seems on one level to be a good effort, the best that could be done with the data available.