Polio: An American Story Polio discussion


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Did anyone else read this because of Freakonomics?

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Kressel Housman I was wondering if other readers of this book heard of it through Freakonomics.


Verena Not me. I think I may have heard about it in a Science Friday podcast. My husband read Freakonomics, but I haven't (yet). I listened to this as an audiobook and found it fascinating.


message 3: by Dee (last edited Oct 08, 2012 02:42PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dee I actually read it not long before I read Freaknomics - I ended up using them both for a reading challenge in the same season - this one as a pulitzer prize winning book - very good read


Kressel Housman I'm so glad people finally responded to this thread. So to all of you, I highly recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She isn't mentioned in the polio book as far as I recall, but her cells were used in the research that led to the vaccine.


Verena That one is my on TBR list. I think she might have actually been mentioned in the book, I know I heard her name mentioned recently in something I read.

In the same vein, I highly recommend The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I listened to this as an Audible book, read by the author, and it was fascinating.


Meghan I have not read Freakonomics. I read this book because I am interested in polio. As far as goes, I loved it. She isn't mentioned in Polio as far as I remember but it wouldn't be necessary in my opinion.


Kressel Housman Meghan wrote: "She isn't mentioned in Polio as far as I remember but it wouldn't be necessary in my opinion."

I differ with you on that one. If you read about Henrietta Lacks, you'll see the injustices her family suffered. How about a little gratitude? But as this book showed, neither Salk nor Sabin were saints.

I also recommend And They Shall Walk by Elizabeth Kenny. Now she is mentioned in Polio. She's the nurse who came up with an effective treatment for preventing permanent paralysis before the vaccine was developed. She had to fight to get recognized, too.


Meghan Kressel wrote: I differ with you on that one. If you read about Henrietta Lacks, you'll see the injustices her family suffered. How about a little gratitude? But as this book showed, neither Salk nor Sabin were saints.

I know perfectly well about the injustice. The book was published five years before The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks so it wasn't nearly as hot a topic as it is now. When Oshinsky writes about making the vaccine he talks about the scientists and their processes. In that case Henrietta isn't necessary for the story, injustice aside. Elizabeth Kenny is a completely different matter. She took part in a completely different aspect of polio in which she was a main figure.

That's why I believe that Henrietta wasn't mentioned in the book but I also do believe that if the author were to republish it he would add Henrietta.


Kressel Housman I think it's pathetic that she unwittingly provided the cells for the research and yet historians didn't even know about her until now.


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