Polio: Before the vaccine

— by Ann G.
This October 28 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jonas Salk, who developed the first safe and successful polio vaccine (the library is celebrating this milestone limping through lifewith a program called Polio Then and Now: From Salk’s Game-Changing Vaccine to Today’s Resurgence on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Central Library and a related booklist). It’s hard to imagine now the terrible and pervasive fear that polio inspired, but if you imagine that at its height in the 1940s and 50s, half a million people a year were paralyzed or killed by it worldwide, you start to get some idea.

Even if you survived polio, it was often life-changing. There are a number of powerful and poignant memoirs and histories that relate its aftermath. In Limping Through Life: A Farm Boy’s Polio Memoir, Jerry Apps recounts the night that his life changed forever as he felt the first symptoms of polio. At age 12, he had to readjust his expectations for his entire life; in fact, the effects of the virus followed him through his military service, college years and beyond, eventually positively contributing to his decision to become a writer. Continue reading “Polio: Before the vaccine”

Science On Tap – Brains and Brew in Seattle

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 Brains and Brew – a perfect combination in this city of microbrewers and techies.  I am a huge fan of science writing in the vein of Stephen J. Gould, Carl Sagan and E. O. Wilson.  The only drawback I’ve ever found to science books is the lack of immediacy.  It takes years for a scientist to do the work, write up the results, get those results peer reviewed and then, hopefully, write about their research in an exciting and approachable popular format.  And in this impatient world I want to know about the interesting research NOW!

Along comes Science on Tap. Sit down in a local pub with a beer or a cup of coffee and listen to working scientists from all over the scientific map discuss their current work.  It doesn’t get much more immediate or more interesting.  And it’s totally nonthreatening.  Just a bunch of  brainy folks chatting about an interesting topic over a few drinks at their local.

Of course, if you would rather read about the interesting discoveries or grand unified theories of everything I’ve got some suggestions.