RGIN OF SAFETY by John Rowan Wilson


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A generally comminatory but very readable review of the decisive years of research and applied control of poliomyelitis reveals much of the bickering, backbiting and ballyhoo which figured in this recent chapter of medical history. And while both national and personal rivalries were involved (Russia against the U.S., Sabin against Salk) still the scientists come off best and many of the mistakes- the premature claims, later embarrassments- can be attributed to the society in which we live and the characteristically American syndrome of urgency, energy and waste. Rowan, both a doctor and a novelist, gives the early history of this disease which only reached epidemic proportions in this century; the first field trials and the sponsorship of the National Foundation, colossus and sacred cow with its high pressure campaigns and its high priest- publicist O'Connor; the release of Salk's vaccine and the Cutter laboratory disaster; the next years which partially vindicated Salk, but also witnessed the development of the live vaccines; the continuing controversy between Salk's- and Sabin's, settled here at least- Wilson opts for Sabin's; and some final words on the relationships between science, government and industry...An aggressive airing of some of the unfortunate side effects in this case history which does not minimize the end results or the men who achieved them, a quod erat demonstradum with a purpose. The (hey)-day of the Foundation is over and science must be managed.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1963
Publisher: Doubleday