Home > Expert Insights, Science & Research > Willrich Discusses The History of Smallpox

Willrich Discusses The History of Smallpox

Sometimes it’s in the context of forced vaccinations.  Sometimes it’s in the context of disease eradication.  However, in various debates regarding the morality, ethics, safety and effectiveness of vaccines, the conversation often explores the public health initiatives and private medical decisions that occurred during America’s battle with smallpox.

A few months ago, one of our favorite resources, The History Of Vaccines, sponsored a book talk at the The College of Physicians of Philadelphia with the author of POX: An American History (The Penguin Press).  Michael Willrich, PhD, discussed how the nation’s continent-wide fight against smallpox in the early 1900s launched one of the most important civil liberties struggles of the twentieth century.   The measures enacted to contain the disease – quarantines, pesthouses, and “virus squads” – sparked a wave of popular resistance among Americans who perceived them as a threat to their health and to their rights.

Fortunately, Willrich’s book-talk was filmed for C-SPAN’s BookTV, and is schedule to air on Saturday, July 9 at 3:30pm ET. If you can’t view or record the program, you can always view this hour-long segment from the C-SPAN Video Library here.  The video includes the full length of Willrich’s talk, as well as the question and answer session.

We want to thank History of Vaccines for their efforts in making this possible and for alerting us to the broadcast.  Feel free to post your comments and reviews of the video and book here.

  1. August 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

    It is interesting to see how nations developed general vaccines for their population. In the US, schools were forced to give children vaccines.

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  2. Leonardo Kiecker
    February 6, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Smallpox, a highly contagious disease, is unique only to humans. The smallpox virus is caused by two virus variants called Variola major and Variola minor. Variola major is the more deadly form of the virus; it usually has a mortality rte of 20-40 percent of those that are infected with the virus. Variola minor on the other hand is much less severe and only kills 1% of its victims. Neither of the Variola’s are bugs that you want to get. Avoid them at all costs!.^

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