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Extended Audio Sample Polio: An American Story Audiobook, 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: April 2005 ISBN: 9781449813529
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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.”

    Economist

  • “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.”

    Newsday

  • “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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donna Hill | 2/6/2014

    " Very compelling read and taught me much I didn't know about polio and the development of a vaccine. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 2/4/2014

    " Interesting behind-the-scenes look at the history of polio in the US and the development of the injectable and oral vaccines. A bit too much background on FDR and the founding of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (aka March of Dimes) but the chapters on Salk, who was apparently a celebrity seeker (back in the day when that was not respectable for a scientist) and his bitter rival, Sabin, were entertaining. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kim | 1/27/2014

    " I found the information on polio, about how it seemed to evolve into a real threat in the early to mid 20th century, educational. I also learned a great deal from the early investigations into vaccine production and about science, medicine, and politics in that time period. The last third or so of the book centered on Salk and Sabin and their rivalry and final years, and it sort of lost steam for me. It is certainly a worthwhile read but sort of a slog toward the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lindaott | 1/25/2014

    " University of Texas history professor has taken a dry scientific subject and made it extremely interesting. Can't put it down. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sawy-o | 1/19/2014

    " This book was a good read! Ties together all sorts of historical tidbits, from how the March of Dimes got started to why people turn the sheets over the edges of blankets when making a bed. Great for striking up conversations with elderly friends. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara Newman | 11/16/2013

    " Interesting commentary on scientific research and the politics therein. A nice companion movie is "the five pennies" wi Bing Crosby as a trumpet player whose daughter contracts polio. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 10/24/2013

    " Interesting story of science in the 20th century and the politics of science and public health. Even those of us who remember getting polio vaccines in elementary school, now take having safe vaccines for granted, even with the current vaccine issues. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nicole | 10/24/2013

    " This book was very informative and gave a great insight into the development of the vaccine, the funding antics, and the challenges of those inflicted. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bobby Hawthorne | 7/24/2012

    " Complicated subject rendered totally accessible by this University of Texas history professor. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction and deserved it. A great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Gaynor | 7/3/2012

    " I actually read this within the first month it was out. Growing up with a brother who had polio I found it a fascinating read. I think of how germ a phobic our culture has become, maybe more people should read it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ted | 4/19/2012

    " Excellent history of the efforts to eliminate polio, the fear of the disease, and the big personalities of the scientists searching for the cure. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Allison | 1/18/2012

    " All about polio and the climate of disease prevention in the US in the 1950's. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michele | 12/2/2011

    " Fascinating and well organized book. Mr. Oshinsky did a great job of introducing us to the major players in the race to solve the Polio epidemic in America. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dennis Henn | 10/3/2011

    " I have heard all about Jonas Salk, but I was unfamiliar with the difference between a live virus vaccine (Albert Sabin's contribution) and Salk's killed virus vaccine. Interesting look into the egos of the scientists and the challenges they faced. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sandy Bartholome | 9/29/2011

    " This one was tough for me to get through, probably because I don't read much non-fiction. But I'm glad I read it - learned a lot about the history of the big fundraising drives, and the fine line between ethical research and the determination to find a cure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bev Moss | 7/29/2011

    " The most amazing history I've read about polio which was such a scary thing when I was a kid. I had no idea of the controversy surrounding the release of both vaccines that were eventually used to eradicate this disease. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hilary | 6/29/2011

    " Really enjoyable history of the development of the Polio vaccine. It's been several years since I've read this, and I still find myself recalling some of the stories and lessons I learned from this book. Great for scientists! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brandon | 6/6/2011

    " A fascinating read! Educational, interesting and straightforward narrative of the decades long quest to fight a very scary and widespread disease. It quickly becomes a biographical sketch of Salk and Sabin, their heroics, failures, vaccines and impact on American society. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol | 4/25/2011

    " Extremely well researched and well written. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ruby | 4/15/2011

    " Pretty interesting story about the history and politics behind how the Polio vaccine was created. I guess I never realized how this epidemic was not too long ago. Very informative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ellen | 3/22/2011

    " This is about the American fight to end polio. Learned lots of histoy of the era, FDR is on the American dime as he started the March of Dimes. He was honored by the US Mint with his portrait on the U.S. dime. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dennis | 3/10/2011

    " I have heard all about Jonas Salk, but I was unfamiliar with the difference between a live virus vaccine (Albert Sabin's contribution) and Salk's killed virus vaccine. Interesting look into the egos of the scientists and the challenges they faced. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Adam | 2/6/2011

    " Didn't' finish. Too long and a bit boring. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul | 9/7/2010

    " Not the pathology of polio, but the research/social/political/cultural Race for the Cure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katharina | 6/10/2010

    " Interesting book about the history of Polio in the United States. Details the development of the Salk and Sabin vaccines, including the bitter personal rivalry between the two men. A great read for someone who didn't grow up around Polio. "

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About the Narrator

Jonathan Hogan is a stage, television, and film actor. He has appeared in several episodes of Law & Order, as well as One Life to Live, As the World Turns, and Ryan’s Hope. In 1985 his performance in the play As Is earned him a Tony Award nomination.