December 25th, 2013

The End Of Plagues by John Rhodes

The Blurb On The Back:

An absorbing history of mankind’s efforts to eradicate smallpox, tuberculosis, and other deadly diseases, and an inside look at today’s global efforts to defeat polio.

Smallpox was once the most feared scourge in the world, claiming the lives of over two million people a year, killing peasants and nobility alike. But by the second half of the twentieth century, smallpox had been reduced to a memory – effectively stamped out of every community around the world. In THE END OF PLAGUES, immunologist John Rhodes explores how scientists, as well as average men and women, made this victory possible, and what it means for the future eradication of diseases from polio to AIDS.

Spanning three centuries, he weaves together the discovery of vaccination, the birth and growth of immunology, and the fight to eradicate the world’s most feared diseases. The story travels from the early nineteenth century foundling voyages, where chains of orphans, vaccinated one by one against smallpox, were sent to protect colonies around the globe, to Jonas Salk’s laboratory where, after decades of research, the polio vaccine finally became a reality. He also reveals the darker side of immunology’s great race, as countries during the Cold War stockpiled smallpox as a biological weapon. Today, aid groups including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization have made the eradication of polio a priority, and Rhodes takes us behind the scenes to witness firsthand the immense global effort underway to make polio the second disease mankind has eradicated.

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The Verdict:

Renowned immunologist John Rhodes looks at the birth and development of immunology through the development of vaccines – specifically in the treatment of smallpox, polio and tuberculosis and then the fight to eradicate smallpox and polio on a global basis. There’s a lot in the book that’s fascinating and I learnt an awful lot about the subject and about people such as Jenner and also about the difficulties in engaging on global vaccination. It is not a perfect book, however, the time jumping irritated me and at times Rhodes skips over details such as names that would have been good to know but that doesn’t detract from what’s a decent read and which makes a technical, scientific subject relatively easy for laymen to understand.

THE END OF PLAGUES was released in the United Kingdom on 22nd October 2013. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.