Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press
Polio: An American Story

Polio: An American Story

by David M. Oshinsky


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Polio: An American Story

Here David Oshinsky tells the gripping story of the polio terror and of the intense effort to find a cure, from the March of Dimes to the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines—and beyond. Drawing on newly available papers of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin and other key players, Oshinsky paints a suspenseful portrait of the race for the cure, weaving a dramatic tale centered on the furious rivalry between Salk and Sabin. He also tells the story of Isabel Morgan, perhaps the most talented of all polio researchers, who might have beaten Salk to the prize if she had not retired to raise a family.

Oshinsky offers an insightful look at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was founded in the 1930s by FDR and Basil O'Connor, it revolutionized fundraising and the perception of disease in America. Oshinsky also shows how the polio experience revolutionized the way in which the government licensed and tested new drugs before allowing them on the market, and the way in which the legal system dealt with manufacturers' liability for unsafe products. Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, Oshinsky reveals that polio was never the raging epidemic portrayed by the media, but in truth a relatively uncommon disease. But in baby-booming America—increasingly suburban, family-oriented, and hygiene-obsessed—the specter of polio, like the specter of the atomic bomb, soon became a cloud of terror over daily life.

Both a gripping scientific suspense story and a provocative social and cultural history, Polio opens a fresh window onto postwar America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195307146
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 08/31/2006
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 186,085
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

David M. Oshinsky is Professor of History at New York University and Director of the Division of Medical Humanities at the NYU School of Medicine. A leading historian of modern American politics and society, he is the author of A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy and "Worse Than Slavery": Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice, both of which won major prizes and were New York Times Notable Books.

Table of Contents

1The First Epidemics8
2Warm Springs24
3"Cripples' Money"43
4"And They Shall Walk"61
5Poster Children, Marching Mothers79
6The Apprenticeship of Jonas Salk92
7Pathway to a Vaccine112
8The Starting Line128
9Seeing Beyond the Microscope145
10"Plague Season"161
11The Rivals174
12"The Biggest Public Health Experiment Ever"188
13The Cutter Fiasco214
14Mission to Moscow237
15Sabin Sundays255
16Celebrities and Survivors269
Selected Bibliography328

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Polio: An American Story 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi, my name is Addison I am in 5th grade and i am doing a book project on this book. This book is very informitive if you are doing a report or reading to find interesting information. The book you are planing on reading(this book) would be a wounderful experience to read . I recomend this book.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
For the last several decades, I have read about a dozen books about polio, and this is by far the most informative.  The book would be better without Mr. Oshinsky's second-guessing of the people who actually lived through the frightening epidemics. As the saying goes, "hindsight is 20-20," and in fact, some of the beliefs that he laughingly mentions, turned out to be true. For example, he mentions that at the time of the epidemics, some people believed that germs were on money. And in fact, recent studies have consistenly proved that very fact; dollar bills are notorious for their abundance of E. Coli, and likely harbor other microbes, as well. But If you can get past the arrogant, cynical attitude of the author, you will likely be glad that you persevered. The book takes you behind the scenes, and at the end, you feel like you actually knew the key "players" in the race to discover a viable vaccine. And as a bonus, if you grew up in the late 1950s or early 1960s as I did, you will especially appreciate how the book "fills in the blanks;" you will be able to figure out whether you received the live or dead vaccine etc. If you only read one book about how polio affected America, this should be the one that you choose.
2wheelnurse More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent review on the history of polio in the US and the pursuit of a vaccine. It's easy in today's world to forget polio once was a very serious disease in the US. The author did a good job translating the science of vaccine research into language the average person could understand. It also provides a nice historical context of government's expansion of public health.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Polio: An American Story by David Oshinsky was really, really interesting. I had no idea that polio was such an intense subject and that everyone was so terrified of getting it. To tell the truth I wasn¿t even positive what it was. I love how Oshinsky shows how vulnerable we were to such scares in America and how the fear of contracting polio spread like wildfire. He reveals in the book that polio was a lot more uncommon than the media led on, and that in postwar America there was no quicker and easier way to come together than fighting against a raging epidemic. My mom and her brother were born in the very early 50¿s, and I brought up polio when in the middle of this book. She told me how my grandmother wouldn¿t let them go swimming in public pools and how she had to get the polio vaccine when she was seven. She said my grandmother and her friends¿ moms were constantly worried about it, it became a daily part of life. She showed me a circle-like scar on her arm from the vaccine. I found out my dad had one as well. Hearing my parents talk about it made it seem very real. This book was really informative but it also left me in suspense- he painted a nervous America really well. I was always right with the people he described in hoping for a cure. Without being boring, Oshinsky talks about Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk, two rivals searching for the perfect vaccine. I think this book was a really interesting read because I found things out like how this is when the famous March of Dimes began and stuff like that, but it also had vivid stories of real people that tug at your heartstrings. -Stefanie
ALDavis More than 1 year ago
I noticed this book was mentioned in the credits of a PBS "American Experience" program on the polio epidemic, so I decided to read it. Dr. Oshinsky chronicles the paranoia, publicity, and politics of polio, as well as the race to develop a vaccine. There were costly errors in the early days of vaccine research and a number of false starts. Researchers were essentially battling each other, criticizing each other's methods and findings. There were problems with the vaccine manufacturing process that led to new cases of the disease. It was anything but a simple process. The entire book represents a fascinating account of the polio epidemic and eventual eradication of the disease. I found that I couldn't wait to read further to see what happened next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Professor Oshinsky leads the reader into an unexpected and enlightening study of one of America's greatest triumphs and struggles in Medical History. Highly recommended for any student of history or medicine. Good page turner on a subject matter that usually is not fun to read about. Easy and Accessible. Oshinsky teaches at the University of Texas Austin.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I used this book for a natinal history dy project and it worked grate. It had lots of amazing details
Highland253 More than 1 year ago
I like non fiction but this book was particularly a page turner
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