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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive book on the subject, October 7, 2009
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This review is from: The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (Hardcover)
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in Human History. That is no hyperbole. The influenza epidemic of 1917-1918 killed more people than World War I, more than the plague epidemics that swept Europe periodically in the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Barry brings to life the origins of the pandemic, the villains, the heroes, and the institutions it spawned that are here to this very day.

Mistakenly called "Spanish" flu, the influenza strain that decimated the world as WWI ended began in the heartland of America, in Kansas to be precise. Borne abroad by troops posted to Europe, it swept across a vulnerable world, gaining a foothold where troops were barracked, or tenements teemed with immigrants. Barry weaves together several threads in this book: it is more than the story of the flu pandemic; it is also the story of William Welch and the creation of the first school of public health in the US at Johns Hopkins. It's the story of the creation of the modern medical school, of which type Johns Hopkins is the first. It's also the story of the creation of Rockefeller University. Finally, it is also the story of the brilliant men like Welch, McCarty, Flexner, and more, who devoted their lives to fighting the flu and later on, other diseases as well. The discovery of DNA as the genetic material of most organisms is owed to McCarty's pursuit (along with Avery and McCleod) of a vaccine for the pneumonia bacterium, pneumococcus.

This book is for those interested in history, biography, public health, medical microbiology, and certainly more. You'll be educated about the way people lived nearly a century ago, about the life of great scientists, and the founding of the premier school of public health in the nation. Its greatest strength is the attention to detail. Its weakness may be the breadth of material covered: there's enough for at least 2 books. That said, I definitely recommend this book to colleagues and history buffs.
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