Book Review: Smallpox the Death of a Disease

After suffering the scourge of smallpox for over 3,000 years, humanity has finally all but eradicated the dread disease. During his tenor as director of the World Health Organization’s eradication campaign between 1966-1077, Dr. Henderson was instrumental in orchestrating the worldwide effort. Instead of the rather sanitized version available from WHO, Dr. Henderson presents a more honest picture of the people and politics that came into play during this monumental task. While bearing down hard on some of the WHO regional offices and Somalia’s ruling regime, the author is equally willing to point out key supporters of the global effort.

Dr. Henderson’s lively narration provides a rare glimpse into all the background battles with unpredictable weather, wars, cultural bias, endless bureaucracy and lack of funding while giving readers a renewed appreciation for the effort that went into this major achievement. However, there is a cautionary tale here as the debate over the fate of the remaining stock remains in question and new details regarding the Soviet Union’s experimental efforts become known.

A wealth of photos, informative sidebars and charts help illustrate the people and politics involved without overwhelming readers with technical jargon. Fans of true-life forensic books and anyone interested in how this effort came to be, the challenges faced and eventually surmounted will want to give this a look.

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