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Polio: An American Story (2005)

by David M. Oshinsky

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7031532,465 (4.06)71
This is the gripping story of the 1950s polio epidemic that terrified America and how it was conquered in a bitter competition between two brilliant scientists.

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A NF book about the disease from the 1920's until 2000. A very interesting book, especially about both Salk and Sabin; what scoundrels! I won't tell more so as to not give it away. I know it's cliche, but this NF read like a work of fiction. It was tense and I was on the edge of my seat. 369 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Mar 1, 2024 |
A history of the polio epidemic in 20th c. America and the rivalry between scientists as they raced for a vaccine. The general history of the disease was included to give context to the American story. This was a solid read and I appreciated the details of an era I remember from my childhood. ( )
  beebeereads | Aug 29, 2020 |
Oshinsky's Polio is truly a great American story of the pursuit of Polio vaccination and its eventual eradication. The story telling is intricate, with a healthy dose of politics in the early times of nationwide healthcare initiatives, academic research - with the required jealousy, fighting, and competition. ( )
  bsmashers | Aug 1, 2020 |
When was the last time you heard the word “polio?” It was probably in reference to a vaccine, not the disease. So thoroughly have the effects of polio vaccination been felt that less than 2,000 cases exist each year and only in remote regions of Nigeria, India, and Pakistan. Ridding the world of it forever (in other words, complete eradication, like with smallpox) is in sight.

Polio once caused swimming pools and movie theaters to shut down in order to prevent possible venues to transmit disease, so Oshinsky tells us in this well-told history. The verification of the Salk vaccine produced utter euphoria in America and amplified the American ethic of can-do-know-how-ism.

He also shares the tale of the rivalry between polio virologists Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin (and truth be told, other virologists as well). Both deserve credit for their cure and for their respective work, each producing an effective vaccine. However, both had different methods, different audiences, and different attitudes. Fortunately for us, each vaccine could serve its part to contribute to the global effort to eradicate polio – even if their respective inventors could not get along.

As such, this book teaches functions not merely as another history of disease but also as an important commentary on the culture of science. It teaches us how to get along and how to work together – especially when we work differently than the people sitting next to us. This intricately human story should not perish among the annals of American history. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
This is a very interesting look back over the disease of polio and the research into it. Reads more like a fiction novel. ( )
  Nero56 | Apr 6, 2015 |
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For Jane. Her love, her compassion, her sense of family; her extraordinary courage in the face of adversity - all make her the indispensable one.
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Polio has been called many things since it was first described in the medical literature several hundred years ago.
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This is the gripping story of the 1950s polio epidemic that terrified America and how it was conquered in a bitter competition between two brilliant scientists.

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