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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Ralph D. Arcari, Ph.D.(University of Connecticut Health Center)
Description: The author has successfully written for lay persons a history of the effort to eradicate polio in the United States. Major subjects include disease mechanisms, prevaccination treatments, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, and the Salk (killed virus) vs. the Sabin (live virus) vaccine competition.
Purpose: The book's purpose is to provide insight into the political, economic, and scientific factors that resulted in the development of polio vaccines. Providing a window into the personalities and ambitions behind the ostensibly altruistic goal of disease eradication is a worthwhile reality lesson. The author is objective and evenhanded in his portrayal of the rivalries associated with development of a polio prevention vaccine.
Audience: The author is a university-based historian who has written well-received books on non-medical topics. The author is qualified to write for a lay audience, which he has done with this book. He is not qualified to write for medical professionals or biomedical researchers.
Features: After providing background chapters on polio as a disease; its most famous victim, the 32nd president of the United States; and the machinations of polio-related philanthropic foundations, the details of the competition between Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin are fully explored. This book is a straightforward history with well-captioned photographs. A timeline for major polio events and a graph indicating the number of polio victims by year from 1900 - 2000 might have been useful.
Assessment: This book complements and updates Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine by Jane S. Smith (William Morrow, 1990). Both books are written for the nonprofessional. The Smith book, however, as its title indicates, focuses much more extensively on Salk. For a general overview of polio with an assessment of the careers of both Salk and Sabin and an update on the efforts of the WHO to eradicate polio worldwide, the Oshinsky book is recommended.