Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine

Jane S. Smith, Author William Morrow & Company $22.95 (413p) ISBN 978-0-688-09494-2
Paralytic polio went from epidemic outbreak to near-extinction in 50 years. This medical triumph involved more than the daring of Jonas Salk, who developed a killer-virus vaccine against the advice of his colleagues, and of his rival Albert Sabin, whose oral live-virus vaccine is now widely used. The war on polio is also the story of the March of Dimes, mass field-testing of the vaccine on schoolchildren, accidental deaths, scientists jockeying for prestige and power, and the importation of large numbers of monkeys. A Northwestern University visiting scholar, Smith unconvincingly links FDR's struggle with crippling polio to the nation's turning ``to the language of polio'' in the 1930s (``Business was `paralyzed,' the economy was `crippled' ''). Her contention that the 1950s vaccination program drew popular support from the Cold War's ``atmosphere of mass vulnerability'' seems dubious, as do some of her sociological interpretations. Even so, this exciting, dramatic narrative tells a comprehensive story of the conquest of polio and sheds fresh light on the politics of medicine. Photos. Author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
Paperback - 978-0-385-41868-3
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