by Michael Kinch ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2018
A useful book that effectively “conveys the challenges posed by infectious disease and relates a story of unparalleled...
A comprehensive history of the science of vaccination.
Next to clean water, vaccines are the greatest lifesaver in modern society, so readers of this admirable account will thrill to stories of the conquest of historical plagues (smallpox, diphtheria, polio) and research into preventing today’s deadly infections (AIDS, tuberculosis, dengue, Ebola). Biting off more than many writers could chew, Kinch (Pharmacology/Washington Univ.; A Prescription for Change: The Looming Crisis in Drug Development, 2016) adds a fine history of the evolution of life, emphasizing the development and operation of the immune system. And there’s more. At regular intervals, the author returns to a subject of intense interest to a small group that will likely not buy his book: opponents of vaccination. Although much in the news, they have existed since the beginning, and their reasons have only one thread in common: All are wrong. “The volume and advocacy of false facts by an obnoxious and loud minority has overwhelmed the fact-based attempts by credible sources to expound the extraordinary health benefits of vaccination,” writes Kinch. “Unfortunately, the scientific community has largely demurred from confronting these loud disagreements.” Partly through their efforts, American smallpox deaths rose during the 19th century after the introduction of vaccination. It was the law that turned the tide. Beginning in 1905, court decisions affirmed that compulsory vaccination, like water chlorination, is a legitimate government public health function. Courts—not the facts—remain the American anti-vaccine movement’s most effective opponent. Like evidence that the Earth is not flat or that Elvis is dead, careful studies showing that vaccines save lives rarely convince true believers and bore many who have not taken up the cause, but readers who persist will be rewarded with a riveting chronicle of one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of medical science.A useful book that effectively “conveys the challenges posed by infectious disease and relates a story of unparalleled successes in vaccines that have raised both the quality and quantity of life for all people.”
Pub Date: July 3, 2018
Page Count: 360
Review Posted Online: April 29, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018
Share your opinion of this book
A quirky wonder of a book.
A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.
Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.A quirky wonder of a book.
Pub Date: April 14, 2020
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020
Share your opinion of this book
by Bill Bryson ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2003
Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...
Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.
As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.
Pub Date: May 6, 2003
Page Count: 304
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003
Share your opinion of this book
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!