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Polio: Book summary and reviews of Polio by David M. Oshinsky

Polio

An American Story

by David M. Oshinsky

Polio

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Book Summary

All who lived in the early 1950s remember the fear of polio and the elation felt when a successful vaccine was found. Now 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.

Here is a remarkable portrait of America in the early 1950s, using the widespread panic over polio to shed light on our national obsessions and fears. 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. Indeed, the competition was marked by a deep-seated ill will among the researchers that remained with them until their deaths.

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Book Awards

  • award image Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music, 2006

Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A]n edifying description of one of the most significant public health successes in U.S. history." - PW

"While this part of the story and the public adulation of Salk have been told elsewhere, Oshinsky amplifies the tale with data explaining why the Sabin oral vaccine became the one preeminently adopted internationally, and why the debate has continued." - School Library Journal

"An easily approachable yet factually rich narrative.... Oshinsky provides a very readable and enlightening history that also can be appreciated as good storytelling."--Science

"A rich and illuminating analysis.... The story of polio captures all the drama of high-profile and high-stakes research in an America in social flux: the tension between sober scientists and sensationalistic media; experimenta."-The New York Times Book Review

"Excellent.... Oshinsky does a good job of recounting famous tales from the war on polio.... The book also unearths some of the fascinating forgotten stories."--The Economist

"Starred Review. Narrative history doesn't get much better.... Oshinsky illuminates Salk's competitors...and after Salk's triumph, he turns to Albert Sabin, whose live-virus vaccine became officially preferred before mass immunization with Salk's was finished. He confirms...that Sabin was a real SOB as well as a good scientist, but...airs trenchant criticism of Salk, too. Further, he brings the story down to the recent reemergence of Salk's vaccine and the present, when the WHO hopes for polio's ultimate eradication in 2008."--Booklist

"Teases out the broader context of polio as a historian should."--Financial Times

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