The riveting story of one of the greatest scientific accomplishments of the twentieth century, from the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Apollo 13.
With rivalries, reversals, and a race against time, the struggle to eradicate polio is one of the great tales of modern history. It begins with the birth of Jonas Salk, shortly before one of the worst polio epidemics in United States history. At the time, the disease was a terrifying enigma: striking from out of nowhere, it afflicted tens of thousands of children in this country each year and left them, literally overnight, paralyzed, and sometimes at death's door.
Salk was in medical school just as a president crippled by the disease, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was taking office, and providing the impetus to the drive for studies on polio. By the early 1950s, Salk had already helped create an influenza vaccine, and was hot on the trail of the polio virus. He was nearly thwarted, though, by the politics of medicine and by a rival researcher eager to discredit his proposed solution. Meanwhile, in 1952, polio was spreading in record numbers, with 57,000 cases in the United States that summer alone.
In early 1954, Salk was weighing the possibility of trials of a not-yet-perfected vaccine against, as the summer approached, the prospect of thousands more children being struck down by the disease. The results of the history-making trials were announced at a press conference on April 12, 1955: "The vaccine works." The room, and an entire nation, erupted in cheers for this singular medical achievement.
Salk became a cultural hero and icon for a whole generation. Now, at the fiftieth anniversary of the first national vaccination program, and as humanity is tantalizingly close to eradicating polio worldwide, comes this unforgettable chronicle. Salk's work was an unparalleled achievement, and it makes for a magnificent listen.
©2005 Jeffrey Kluger; (P)2005 Tantor Media, Inc.
"The book is well researched and accessible, made all the more tense and gripping by the author's depiction of the pre-vaccine world." (Publishers Weekly)
This book relates a truly interesting episode in recent history, and does an outstanding job illustrating how the medical scientific process can really work -- and how public perception can be pretty far out of line with medical reality.
The author's work leaves much to be desired. The book too often focuses annoyingly on useless details, such as whether coffee was served, or where a camera was placed in a lecture hall; yet it skims far too lightly over issues of character: why key people in the story behaved as they did.
I found myself playing the book at 1.5x or ever 2x speed to zoom through portions where unimportant details were conveyed for minutes at a time; yet I was hungry for more about the key players' difficulties, joys, and formative experiences -- and the utterly unexplained motivations for some of the biggest conflicts described.
I would recommend this to my friends with the following descriptions: history buffs, vaccine antagonist/protagonist, health care providers, future scientists. Incredible history of FDR and Dr. Salk.
The beginning of the book was incredibly inspiring. Understanding the quirkiness of future Dr. Salk, makes you appreciate differences in others (and yourself) that make you who you are, and quite perfect for the occupation you choose.
This is my first.
Killing a virus, Saving a population.
I must admit, the first couple chapters would have received 5/5 stars as it was quickly becoming a favorite read, however once it became detailed with minutia of lab procedures and politics of lab recognition, the book slowed down drastically. I would still recommend this book to many, but do prepare yourself for the tweaking of details about laboratory procedures. On the other hand, this novel made me appreciate the benefit of a vaccine, in the midst of a society that may hesitate/see only the bad in them.
This book provided a peep-show into the politics, money, and egos that mash against each other in the ivory towers of academic medicine.
From a scientific perspective, there are always inherent risks with medical interventions and vaccinations are no exception. However, this story provides a real world, poignant account of the disease alternative. A must read for all those non-scientist mothers who are choosing to not vaccinate their children.
The complete history of search for a prevention of the childhood plague was fascinating.
The technical editing of the book was absolutely the worst I've ever experience in all the books I've listened to over the last nine years. The last word of every chapter was cut off by the announcement of the next chapter. It was startling and somewhat disconcerting.
It was wonderful to hear the whole history of the Salk Vaccine. As a child, I was told how a brother's playmate contracted Polio or Infantile Paralysis and succumbed to the disease. My brother ran a high fever but recovered quickly. Now I understand what happened to both boys. And I was one of the lucky children who received the vaccine during the testing.
Very close to the top. I've read lots of good books, fiction and nonfiction. This was a remarkable story...well written and an enjoyable listen. Highly recommended.
The description of the press conference when the field study results of the vaccine were released to the public.
He makes the characters come alive. Something not possible when reading.
I read the book whenever I had a chance...in the car, working out in the gym, and at bedtime. One helluva a great book.
Easy to get through over a days drive on 2x speed (iPod). Great story, no annoying narrations. If you enjoy medical history, here is another along the lines of Demon Under the Microscope or Emperor of All Mal.
Avid audiobook addict!
Fantastic story. Narration was a little dry sometimes, but it's history after all not dramatic fiction. Extremely interesting.
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