In medical school when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was diagnosed with the disease shortly before assuming the Presidency, Salk was given an impetus to conduct studies on polio. His progress in combating the virus was hindered by the politics of medicine and by a rival researcher determined to discredit his proposed solution. But Salk's perseverance made history-and for more than fifty years his vaccine has saved countless lives, bringing humanity close to eradicating polio throughout the world.
Splendid Solution chronicles Dr. Salk's race against time-and a growing epidemic that reached 57,000 reported cases in the summer of 1952-to achieve an unparalleled medical breakthrough that made him a cultural hero and icon for a whole generation.
For children today, the word "polio" means little more than a series of shots, a mundane part of health care. Fifty years ago, however, polio was a dark shadow that arrived every summer, a deep fear hanging over every child and parent. Every year, the disease left tens of thousands of children crippled, paralyzed or, worse, reliant on an iron lung to aid them in breathing. Time magazine senior writer Kluger, coauthor of the bestselling book that was the basis for the movie Apollo 13, tells how polio was beaten 50 years ago in one of the triumphs of modern medicine. The narrative naturally centers on Jonas Salk, whose lab developed the first polio vaccine, but this is by no means a simple biography. Kluger is best when describing science as a team enterprise, and this account offers a keen understanding of the vast machine of people and resources mobilized to combat polio. The book is well researched and accessible, made all the more tense and gripping by the author's depiction of the pre-vaccine world by describing what it was like to live in fear of polio, Kluger reminds us how joyous and heroic an event its conquest was. B&w photos not seen by PW.