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Pox: An American History

Pox: An American History

2.8 4
by Michael Willrich

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The untold story of how America's progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century.

At the turn of the last century, a smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. In this gripping account, award- winning historian Michael Willrich chronicles the government's fight against the

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Pox: An American History 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
"Pox: An American History" by Michael Willrich is a non-fiction book which traces how the smallpox vaccine was distributed during major outbreaks. Some of the vaccines were forced onto people which caused an outrage and the question made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The book clearly suggests that an overlooked legacy of American dissent was the antivaccinationists. An increasingly powerful government took on the progressive position that the benefit of all people outweighs the problems of the few and started mandatory vaccination campaigns. An interesting and informative part of American history. To my great surprise, "Pox: An American History" by Michael Willrich is an extremely readable and fast paced book. What I mean by "readable" is that the book does not simply recite facts, figures, laws, high level agenda etc. Yes, it does that as well but by telling stories of individuals on both sides of the debate, such as C.P. Wertenbaker, a federal surgeon who worked tirelessly to combat the deadly and preventable disease. On the other side there is Swedish Lutheran minister Henning Jacobson who took his battle to the Supreme Court battling against vaccination. Those stories, big and small, in context with the overall picture are what make the book a joy to read. Mr. Willrich goes beyond just reciting facts and figures; he also frames the debate around vaccinations. At a time when people believed that vaccinations are some sort of a vast government conspiracy (in a way it was), a cabal of the feds with the drug manufacturers - sounds familiar? The questions which were debated and to some extent still are to this day. What rights can or should the federal government ignore in order to protect us? What is the price we are willing to pay? What happens when the interests of the public at large collide with religion/personal conscience? The accounts detailed in the book are very interesting and I learned a lot from reading them. The research is meticulous but the elegant writing makes the book a joy to read, not only if you are interested in medicine, but also for those interested in history and especially the social classes in the United States.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, although at times it was rather slow. What I liked was the challenges faced by the public health community to bring smallpox under control. The tactics and measures taken would not have been tolerated today. However, I am fortunate that the scourage of smallpox was eliminated when I was a child. I was vaccinated, but never knew of any cases in my lifetime, nor anything that my mother and father could recall, too. I was surprised that it was not until 1979 that the last case was identified in Somalia and eliminated. The approach to smallpox was drastic, but in hindsight probably necessary and fortunate for all the lives and suffering saved. This likely will be the last significant disease that will be eradicated. In our modern society, infectious and communicable diseases still strike, despite effective vaccines. My grandmother told me of stories of people she knew growing up who had died of diphtheria, scarlet fever and measles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont like this book at all