From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. For children today, the word "polio" means little more than a series of shots, a mundane part of health care. Fifty years ago, however, polio was a dark shadow that arrived every summer, a deep fear hanging over every child and parent. Every year, the disease left tens of thousands of children crippled, paralyzed or, worse, reliant on an iron lung to aid them in breathing. Time
magazine senior writer Kluger, coauthor of the bestselling book that was the basis for the movie Apollo 13,
tells how polio was beaten 50 years ago in one of the triumphs of modern medicine. The narrative naturally centers on Jonas Salk, whose lab developed the first polio vaccine, but this is by no means a simple biography. Kluger is best when describing science as a team enterprise, and this account offers a keen understanding of the vast machine of people and resources mobilized to combat polio. The book is well researched and accessible, made all the more tense and gripping by the author's depiction of the pre-vaccine world—by describing what it was like to live in fear of polio, Kluger reminds us how joyous and heroic an event its conquest was. B&w photos not seen by PW
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*Starred Review* Kluger begins his riveting account of the battle against the viral crippler in 1916, with Dora Salk worrying about her infant son's susceptibility during the first severe polio epidemic. Jonas Salk became not a victim but the slayer of polio, though Franklin D. Roosevelt's disabling 1921 bout with the virus and his inspiration of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis were crucial to Salk's realization of one of modern medicine's finest achievements. Roosevelt's subsequent prestige as president powered the NFIP's fund-raising juggernaut, and its gleanings funded the long process of finding a safe, effective vaccine, including Salk's Pittsburgh labs. From early on, researchers fiercely debated the respective merits of live-virus and killed-virus vaccines. Salk, who had already helped make the flu vaccine, advocated killed-virus vaccine, considering the risk of contracting polio from its ostensible prophylactic--never completely avoidable with any live virus, however weakened--intolerable. Of course, Salk succeeded, but shortly after, so did his principal live-virus opponent, Albert Sabin. Such is the plotline that Kluger masterfully fills out with sketches of the many players, crossroads incidents, and scientific politicking (in which Sabin definitely comes out smelling other than rosy) in the intense search for the weapon that would kill polio. Can't-put-it-down medical-science history. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved