The Roots of Progress

Polio: An American Story

David M. Oshinsky

A history of epidemic polio in America during the 20th century, including FDR and the origins of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Jonas Salk and the first vaccine, and his rival Albert Sabin and his alternate vaccine, developed later (both are in use today).

This book was quite good; even though I haven’t written up the full story yet, I find myself referring to it often. It communicated clearly the scientific and technical challenges of the vaccine, the social significance and impact of the disease and its cure, and the backstory of the public charity that funded the research. There was, as always, a bit of the “personal drama”, especially between Salk and Sabin, but that’s to be expected and perhaps even appropriate in this case, and it didn’t get in the way of the more interesting details.

Recommended for any history buff.

Relevant posts: Leadership and progress, More on polio and randomized clinical trials, Polio and the controversy over randomized clinical trials

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