On 18 April 1782, the supplement to issue No. 31 of the Königsbergische Gelehrte und Politische Zeitungen (Königsberg Learned and Political Newspaper) contained a piece that was occasioned by the influenza epidemic of the spring of that year. The piece consisted of a short introduction written by Kant and the “Nachricht” (Note) proper by the London physician, John Fothergill, in a German translation made by Kant's friend and colleague, Christian Jacob Kraus. Fothergill's text had originally appeared in Gentleman's Magazine, vol. xliv from February 1776, p. 65 column b.
In his introductory remarks Kant approaches the influenza epidemic of 1782 from the perspective of physical geography, noting the spread of the disease from East to West and drawing parallels to other epidemics of the recent and distant past. Moreover, he endorses the view, still not uncontested at the time, that influenza does not arise due to a corruption of the properties of the air but by contagion from already afflicted persons. Kant intends the publication of Fothergill's account of an earlier influenza epidemic as an incentive and a basis for the comparative study of the two epidemics, which he takes to be the occurrences of the same disease.