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Extended Audio Sample Polio: An American Story, by David M. Oshinsky Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,082 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David M. Oshinsky Narrator: Jonathan Hogan Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Here David Oshinsky tells the gripping story of the polio terror and of the intense effort to find a cure, from the March of Dimes to the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines—and beyond. Drawing on newly available papers of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin and other key players, Oshinsky paints a suspenseful portrait of the race for the cure, weaving a dramatic tale centered on the furious rivalry between Salk and Sabin. He also tells the story of Isabel Morgan, perhaps the most talented of all polio researchers, who might have beaten Salk to the prize if she had not retired to raise a family.

Oshinsky offers an insightful look at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was founded in the 1930s by FDR and Basil O’Connor, it revolutionized fundraising and the perception of disease in America. Oshinsky also shows how the polio experience revolutionized the way in which the government licensed and tested new drugs before allowing them on the market, and the way in which the legal system dealt with manufacturers’ liability for unsafe products. Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, Oshinsky reveals that polio was never the raging epidemic portrayed by the media, but in truth a relatively uncommon disease. But in baby-booming America—increasingly suburban, family-oriented, and hygiene-obsessed—the specter of polio, like the specter of the atomic bomb, soon became a cloud of terror over daily life. 

Both a gripping scientific suspense story and a provocative social and cultural history, Polio opens a fresh window onto postwar America.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Frames the conquest of polio within the cultural upheavals of the time. Polio: An American Story is a rich and illuminating analysis.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Science writing at its most engrossing. Polio: An American Story is definitive, an accessible and memorable account.” Chicago Tribune
  • “An easily approachable yet factually  rich narrative…Oshinsky provides a very readable and enlightening history that also can be appreciated as good storytelling.”

    Science magazine

  • “Excellent…Oshinsky does a good job of recounting famous tales from the war on polio…The book also unearths some of the fascinating forgotten stories.”


  • “Readable, often exciting, filled with ambitious characters, it is science writing at its most engrossing…Oshinsky brings to compelling life the work and conflicts among these researchers and their killed-versus-live-virus approaches…An accessible and memorable account of the great American gift for, occasionally, pulling together across generations, races, and economic divisions.”


  • “Dramatically captures both tensions and ethical dimensions inherent in moving from laboratory work with monkeys to human experimentation…Oshinsky amplifies the tale with data explaining why the Sabin oral vaccine became the one preeminently adopted internationally, and why the debate has continued.”

    School Library Journal

  • Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Magen | 2/20/2014

    " Interesting from a historical or medical standpoint, but pretty dry reading...I guess it would be hard to liven up the history of a vaccine. Educational though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Mandy | 2/18/2014

    " a really enjoyable read about polio and how much is fucked with Americans and how no one could figure it out how it worked for the longest time because they were experimenting on the wrong kinda monkey...really, really interesting and insightful. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Anna | 2/15/2014

    " All about the politics among the researchers, the politicians, and the fund raisers. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Phillip Rhoades | 2/14/2014

    " This brilliant combination of science writing and history justifiably won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in History. Oshinsky masterfully weaves the plethora of variables associated with the development of the Polio vaccine: the history of the disease's spread, FDR, the scientific discoveries and waring factions. Out of these events the authors spins a rich narrative that is both educational and an enjoyable read. I have no reservations in passing this book onto my mother, a polio survivor. "

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