POLIO: An American Story

David M. Oshinsky, Author . Oxford Univ. $30 (342p) ISBN 978-0-19-515294-4

A case of polio in Mecca during this year's hajj and the threat of the disease spreading received major attention in the New York Times. This is the year the World Health Organization has targeted for the elimination of polio worldwide, and 2005 is the 50th anniversary of the polio vaccine—which publishers are celebrating, perhaps prematurely. PW gave a starred review to Jeffrey Kluger's Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio . Here are three more books on polio.

POLIO: An American Story David M. Oshinsky . Oxford Univ. , $30 (432p) ISBN 0-19-515294-8

The key protagonists in historian Oshinsky's (Univ. of Texas, Austin) account of the bruising scientific race to create a vaccine are Jonas Salk, a proponent of a "killed-virus" vaccine, and Albert Sabin, who championed the "live-virus" vaccine. As revered as these men are in popular culture, Oshinsky records their contemporaries' less complimentary opinions (even Sabin's friends, for instance, describe him as "arrogant, egotistical and occasionally cruel"). Oshinsky (A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy , etc.) looks at social context, too, such as the impact of the March of Dimes campaign on public consciousness—and fear—of polio. Tying in the role polio victim FDR played in making the effort a national priority, the precursory scientific developments that aided Salk and Sabin's work, and the ethical dilemmas surrounding human testing, Oshinsky sometimes bogs down in details. But all in all, this is an edifying description of one of the most significant public health successes in U.S. history. 46 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!