Polio: An American Story

Polio: An American Story Here David Oshinsky Tells The Gripping Story Of The Polio Terror And Of The Intense Effort To Find A Cure, From The March Of Dimes To The Discovery Of The Salk And Sabin Vaccines And Beyond Drawing On Newly Available Papers Of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin And Other Key Players, Oshinsky Paints A Suspenseful Portrait Of The Race For The Cure, Weaving A Dramatic Tale Centered On The Furious Rivalry Between Salk And Sabin He Also Tells The Story Of Isabel Morgan, Perhaps The Most Talented Of All Polio Researchers, Who Might Have Beaten Salk To The Prize If She Had Not Retired To Raise A FamilyOshinsky Offers An Insightful Look At The National Foundation For Infantile Paralysis, Which Was Founded In The S By FDR And Basil O Connor, It Revolutionized Fundraising And The Perception Of Disease In America Oshinsky Also Shows How The Polio Experience Revolutionized The Way In Which The Government Licensed And Tested New Drugs Before Allowing Them On The Market, And The Way In Which The Legal System Dealt With Manufacturers Liability For Unsafe Products Finally, And Perhaps Most Tellingly, Oshinsky Reveals That Polio Was Never The Raging Epidemic Portrayed By The Media, But In Truth A Relatively Uncommon Disease But In Baby Booming America Increasingly Suburban, Family Oriented, And Hygiene Obsessed The Specter Of Polio, Like The Specter Of The Atomic Bomb, Soon Became A Cloud Of Terror Over Daily LifeBoth A Gripping Scientific Suspense Story And A Provocative Social And Cultural History, Polio Opens A Fresh Window Onto Postwar America

David M Oshinsky is the director of the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU School of Medicine and a professor in the Department of History at New York University.

[Reading] ➸ Polio: An American Story Author David M. Oshinsky – Ultimatetrout.info
  • Paperback
  • 342 pages
  • Polio: An American Story
  • David M. Oshinsky
  • English
  • 15 June 2018
  • 9780195307146

10 thoughts on “Polio: An American Story

  1. says:

    School is finally out for the summer later this week According to my reading challenge, the last four books I have read have been baseball related It has been a busy time to say the least and I am salivating at the premise of being able to read ahem quality non fiction One ongoing challenge of mine that has been sidetracked but not forgotten is reading Pulitzer winners With the school year about to end, I finally got to read another award winner as part of a buddy read in the nonfiction book club Polio An American Story by David E Oshinsky won the 2006 nonfiction award Telling the story of the eradication of polio through a historical lens, I was able to overcome my general squeamishness toward all things medical and participate in the buddy read The year 1954 gave the United States the first test trials of the polio vaccine In the media, the event was lauded as a great medical breakthrough My parents were in kindergarten at the time and among the hundreds of thousands of children given the vaccine as test subjects Prior to 1954, polio was considered a fatal disease with cases numbering in five digits during the worst epidemic years Scientists note that polio was at its worst in advanced countries that enjoyed the spoils of a modern society soap, heightened sanitation, and less germs Outbreaks occurred in urban centers, and the 1916 epidemic in New York City touched thousands of children Those with means fled to the countryside, but polio struck many of those who stayed Parents were alarmed each spring and summer and took strict measures, keeping their children inside, yet the disease took its toll each year with no cure in sight The most famous of polio victims was President Franklin Roosevelt, who was stricken on a family vacation in northern Maine when he was at the prime of life Paralyzed from the waist down at the worst of his diagnosis, FDR spent the rest of his political career hiding his paralysis from the American public When it was apparent that he would be nominated as governor of New York in 1928, FDR was determined to find a cure for his affliction and found one in the waters of Warm Springs, Georgia It was there that he spent 116 of the next 208 weeks away from his family as FDR used the retreat in an attempt to walk again His case was one of the fortunate ones, however, as children faced a life in an iron lung, leg braces, or being confined to a wheelchair as well as countless fatalities As the quality of life in the United States improves, the chasm between polio cases within her borders versus the rest of the world widened With FDR as the face of the disease, his law partner Basil O Connor was tabbed to run the National Polio Foundation with its headquarters in both New York and Warm Springs O Connor enlisted Hollywood celebrities who admired FDR to lend their names to the cause, and one came up with the name March of Dimes as its fundraising arm Each year on FDR s birthday hundreds of thousands of dimes arrived at the White House as the American public contributed in what little means they had to help communities ravaged by the disease The funds went to assist families who had children stricken by polio but also funded scientists who were in a race to develop a long sought after vaccine to eradicate the disease It is this race that lead to a lifetime rivalry between two key virologists as they sought to become the first to develop a cure for this deadly disease Today children receive two polio shots as infants and polio is wiped out in all but a few pockets of Africa and Southeast Asia This was not always the case During the 1940s Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin raced to see who would develop a polio vaccine first Oshinsky interspersed the science behind the polio vaccine with the history of the time period making Polio An American Story a compelling read Salk was the poster boy of the National Foundation and was willing to lose his anonymity to connect with the American people He favored a killed virus vaccine as he noted that the presence of live virus could lead to polio epidemics While the favorite of the media, Salk irked the scientific community who believed that the best scientists should stay anonymous in their labs As a result, Salk was never inducted into the National Academy of Sciences despite his achievement Biologists viewed Salk as a less than stellar member of the field The leader of this view was Albert Sabin, an at times pompous self centered scientist who rivaled Salk for fame and glory Sabin favored a live virus vaccine and denounced Salk at every opportunity he could Their rivalry would last for the rest of the their lives, yet, in the early 1950s, the race to find the first vaccine that worked was on and the rivalry was intense In many historical books and memoirs I have read of the 1940s and early 1950s, the fear of polio was real Children were not allowed out of their homes in the summer and if they went to swimming pools they had to dry off and change out of their swimming suits immediately One generation later having had the vaccine as a baby, the fear of swimming pools was something I never had to experience Yet, to my parents and their contemporaries not being able to swim for the first six summers of their life was a reality Perhaps if FDR was not stricken by polio, then the race to find a vaccine would not have been as immediate Scientists at the time were focused on finding an influenza vaccine and cared about quality than swiftness Today there is a FDR memorial in Washington, D.C that depicts him both standing and in a wheelchair It was through his National Foundation that funding for research took off Polio An American Story was a compelling read that gave readers a sense of the prevailing views of the time period and the race to develop a vaccine Today both the Salk and Sabin versions of the vaccine are used in parts of the world as there is indeed merit in both live and killed virus vaccines Oshinsky did impeccable research and as one inclined to read history books, I felt he discussed the scientific sections without getting too advanced for my tastes Oshinsky is a history professor at the University of Texas and has written other books about the 1950s, his preferred time period of research Polio is a breakthrough in that it combines history and science and focuses on a disease as a main character, yet another Pulitzer winner I can cross off my list 4 stars

  2. says:

    My older brother died before I was born due to bulbar polio in 1949 As a result, my parents decided to try again so I can say I am here due to polio.Naturally this book caught my eye when I spotted in on a friend s bookshelf and reading it I discovered how little I knew about the disease and the people involved with finding a cure.The book can be divided into two parts the first dealing with the period up to the death of FDR who had the disease and the second dealing with the effort to find a vaccine.In common with several other accounts of scientific pursuits, the search for a polio vaccine features the usual personality conflicts and large egos that place emphasis on MY discoveries and MY work rather than the overall effort Scientists are people and can be just as petty and self serving as anyone else But, through competition come the benefits we all enjoy when the personal feuds are long forgotten.The March of Dimes, Jonas Salk and the peculiar word bulbar that refers to the most deadly manifestation of the disease are all words that I recall hearing when I was a wee lad, so I read with great interest about them Remarkably, the entire organization and money raising effort that brought the Salk vaccine in 1954 was almost completely free of either government or American Medical Association involvement How times have changed Easy to read and fast moving, the book will keep you wondering what twists the story will take and twist it certainly does, but explained in a way that won t leave you confused Polio is a competent job of history writing and, though not a book I d keep for my library, reading it was time well spent.

  3. says:

    I know it s become clich , particularly in my reviews, to say that a history book reads like a novel, but this one really does, and not just a contemplative novel, but a page turning drama The protagonist is Dr Jonas Salk and he and rival scientist Dr Albert Sabin are in a race to conquer a truly frightening enemy the polio epidemic Having read Laser, I suppose I shouldn t have been shocked that science is as ego driven as any other pursuit, but the self interest of the scientists was pretty appalling, especially when the risks were so high Dr Salk definitely lost luster in my eyes, and Dr Sabin was even worse But lest I give the wrong impression, the book covers much than those two and their race to the vaccine It begins with the rise of germ theory in the early 20th century and then takes us to the first polio epidemic of 1916 It explores FDR s conflicted relationship with his handicap and the founding of the March of Dimes My favorite minor character was Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian nurse who took on the medical establishment with her unorthodox but highly effective physical therapy treatments She was a celebrity in her time, and a movie was made about her life I think it s time for a remake After all, The King s Speech covered the unorthodox Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue.I recommend this book particularly to people who aren t in the habit of reading history It covers the 20th century, so it s close enough to most of us to be somewhat familiar, if only through history classes and films At the same time, though, it s a different world a time when kids weren t free to go out to play for fear of spending the rest of their lives in an iron lung The people are multi dimensional, and you get a sense of dialogue because the author quotes extensively from interviews I admit I didn t get all the science, but the book is what it says the story of how the American people banded together to wipe out one terrible threat May Hashem help us to rise to face our current challenges with such unity.

  4. says:

    Thoughts soon.

  5. says:

    As has been said, this book reads like a mystery Fascinating details about the disease, its history, the times, the medicine, the pain, the people who fought to eradicate it and the politics I realized that I was one of the children on whom the vaccine was tested in 1954 I remember clearly being taken in to the cafeteria at St Austin s School and being lined up to get the shot I am told I cried but don t remember that part Of course, at eight years, I had no idea of the controversy and the risk I would give a lot to be able to talk to my father, a physician, about his thinking, giving permission to be in the pilot test, and the risks.

  6. says:

    I read this Pulitzer Prize winner on the recommendation of Dan Jewett, Social Studies Chair at Manchester Essex RHS As a polio victim myself at age 5 in 1952 , I well remember the Sister Kenny treatments hot wool wraps on my affected legs and the physical therapy that my mother did with me Oshinsky was taken the story and made a drama of the race to create a vaccine The Salk Sabin race, the origins and strategies of the March of Dimes which paid for all my treatment , and the controversy over how to distribute the vaccine all make for compelling reading The book is meticulously researched and is riveting.One saddening side note In discussing the Eisenhower administration s inability to get the approved vaccine to the people, Oshinsky writes, The administration s lack of planning was a conscious decision, not an unfortunate oversight Neither the President nor his advisors viewed the distribution of the polio vaccine as a legitimate government function In retrospect, the public interest and lives of many cried out for government action, and I could not help but think of today s health care debate, and how in the future we will find it ridiculous that we waited so long to provide health care for all.What a wonderful piece of scholarship

  7. says:

    Such an interesting account of the history of the quest of a vaccine for polio Amazing that so much was done by a private agency with volunteers and donations from the American public Such a shame to see the petty rivals among the scientists.

  8. says:

    Happy to learn about a disease, now conquered in this country, but that was held in such dread less than a century ago Some highlights Spoilers President Roosevelt hid his disability from the public with the help of reporters It was the first time the nation came together to donate money for a health issue Many monkeys died for the sake of the vaccine Unethical testing was done on institutionalized children TWO MILLION CHILDREN were part of a National TRIAL to discover the effectiveness of the vaccine There was a movement to start socialized medicine, but pharmaceutical companies and the McCarthy scare squashed it An informative and satisfying read.

  9. says:

    If you feel bad about how things are going in the world these days, all one has to do is read some history to realize how much better things are now than they used to be Like for example as long as I know we are not testing vaccines on mentally ill children in mental institutions This book was fascinating, covering not only from a historical perspective but also discussing the political side of early vaccines with the ramifications of privilege wealth in the US I would definitely recommend to anyone who this sounds interesting to It does read rather dry, but I don t ever mind that as long as I m learning something.

  10. says:

    Very interesting look at the history of polio and the vaccine development to thwart it It wasn t all rosy success there were plenty of interpersonal professional scuffles along the way but of course, those juicy bits are always fun for the reader to learn Went on a bit long at times, but overall an insightful read Listened to it as an audiobook.

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