Clif's Reviews > The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
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's review
Mar 05, 2009

really liked it
Read in March, 2009

John Barry is in love with science and we are the beneficiaries in this comprehensive account of the influenza epidemic that came at the end of WWI. Some of his prose is quite lyrical when he praises the scientific method and the virtue of rational thinking combined with imagination in some of the researchers he covers.

But there are villains as well as heroes here as we enter an earlier time where government did almost nothing while private initiatives and funding allied with individual effort to fight disease. You'll get a view of the Wilson administration and the issues of post-war politics. You'll discover the primitive state of American medicine at the turn of the 20th century. You'll learn why the Germans and the French were far ahead in medical research in the beginning of the book and how one American was instrumental in pulling together the human and financial resources to advance the training of a group of American doctors to equal that of the Europeans.

Any history should teach the reader a thing or two and this book excels in that. Medical terms are introduced and carefully explained as are the basic concepts of genetics. How does a virus attack a healthy cell and why does a virus mutate so rapidly that any drug is hard-pressed to remain effective even over a period of months? You'll find out.

I happened across an article in a current newspaper dealing with the attempt to find a vaccine that would be effective against all viruses and to my surprise I found I understood all of the terms because I had read this book.

Written with an intensity and urgency that will keep your attention, The Great Influenza deserves a read.
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message 1: by Libby (new) - added it

Libby Great review, Clif....I've added this book to my shelves.

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