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Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio | [Jeffrey Kluger]

Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (159 )
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  •  
    Tim 08-10-06
    Tim 08-10-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent book"

    Who would have thought that the story of the development of a vaccine could be so fascinating? Obviously Jeffrey Kluger did, and he did a wonderful job of weaving all of the components of this story together. One of the best stories I have heard on audible.com. I give it my highest recommendation.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wolfpacker Memphis, TN 02-04-08
    Wolfpacker Memphis, TN 02-04-08 Member Since 2005

    Curtis

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nice Review of Important Events in Recent History"

    This was a well-written and well-read book that did not drag in the least. It will particularly appeal if you enjoy science and experimental design. I think it would be almost as good even if you have other bends. The human side of the story is enjoyable while the significance of the medical breakthrough against Polio is noteworthy. The tie-ins with history events in the US with FDR and other issues in the 30's, 40's, and 50's brought the book home to me.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Bothell, WA, USA 09-25-06
    Laura Bothell, WA, USA 09-25-06
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    "Fascinating story!"

    I loved this book! It has just the right amount of technical detail, but doesn't overwhelm. Jeffrey Kluger is an excellent science writer. I also found interesting that the "politics" of medical research were similar in the first half of the 20th century to what they are now. I recommend this book to all who are interested in how this horrible disease of children was finally conquered.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger Smith Orlando, Florida United States 12-10-10
    Roger Smith Orlando, Florida United States 12-10-10 Member Since 2000

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Awesome!"

    This is one of the best books I have listened to in years. The story of Salk and the polio vaccine is really outstanding.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn Aurora, CO, USA 06-08-06
    Lynn Aurora, CO, USA 06-08-06
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    "Intriguing History"

    "Splendid Solution" is a powerful story of the development of the polio vaccine and a reminder of what life was like before its availability. Imagine that every year as spring rolls around, so does the dread that by the time school begins in the fall, one or more of your children could be paralyzed or dead. There was tremendous fear and the numbers of families affected every year surprised me. The science is understandably explained and the personal stories quite compelling. We take a lot for granted.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wanda United States 08-01-13
    Wanda United States 08-01-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Outstanding History of Polio Vaccine"
    Any additional comments?

    I had polio in 1955 at 6 months of age so I was personally interested in the book. I have read a few books on the development of the Polio Vaccines and the battles between Salk and Sabin. This has been my favorite.

    The science details in this book are understandable by all. The science isn't the main point of the book. The book deals with the personal, finical, and political hardships of bringing the Salk Vaccine to use.

    Even if you haven't been directly affected by polio, this book is a great history read. It's not just dry facts. It made Salk feel like a real person, with good points and flaws. I was able to "feel" the pressure and stress he lived with.




    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ZiggyZ California, United States 07-22-13
    ZiggyZ California, United States 07-22-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Interesting and brought back memories"

    I was a small child when this story was playing out and remember receiving my Salk vaccine shots at the age of 5 quite clearly! My best buddy when we were five was the son of a physician who contracted polio. So, this book brought back vivid memories.

    It was very interesting, very detailed but always for a purpose. The narration was excellent. One annoying issue that was not the reader's fault: at the end of each chapter, there was not even a split-second pause before the next chapter was announced; sometimes the "Chapter XX" actually seemed to cut off the last word of the previous chapter. Not sure what that was about, but it was distracting each time it happened.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    chris FREDERICKSBURG, VA, United States 02-07-13
    chris FREDERICKSBURG, VA, United States 02-07-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Jonas E Salk; Saving lives"
    What made the experience of listening to Splendid Solution the most enjoyable?

    Noticing the early vexing for profit by pharmaceutical companies even in the 1940's and 50's


    What did you like best about this story?

    Salks humanity


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The first test of a sucessful vaccine


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Boston, MA USA 08-12-12
    David Boston, MA USA 08-12-12 Member Since 2009

    eDave93

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    "Interesting challenges tackled for a nasty bug."

    In Splendid Solution, Jeffrey Kluger tells a thorough history of the life and career of Jonas Salk and the development of the Flue and Polio vaccines that he was instrumental in delivering to the world. I found this to be a fascinating story that shows both the technical challenges for developing vaccines as well as the confrontational and political issues involved. The scientists involved are shown to be more of a collection of domineering and passionate partisans as opposed to a group of rational technologists. My only complaint for the story is that the level of detail in describing certain events seems to be excessive, as in the sequence that reports and VIP’s entered the Polio vaccine trial announcement ceremony. That said, Splendid Solutions tells an important story that saved perhaps millions of shattered lives over the last 50 years. I give Splendid Solution a good read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron Encinitas, CA, United States 02-01-12
    Aaron Encinitas, CA, United States 02-01-12
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    "Interesting story, weak characters, too detailed"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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