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Books, Journals, New Media
April 13, 2005


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia Campus, Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAMA. 2005;293(14):1798-1802. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1801-a

In many ways, The Life and Death of Smallpox portrays the history of this devastating disease with more human interest than other recent volumes covering the same subject. Unfortunately, this is only true after chapter 7.

The first seven chapters cover the history of smallpox before Edward Jenner’s experiments with inoculation. The Glynns’ account of smallpox’s rampage through nearly three millennia of human history is accurate but provides nothing fresh or compelling to distinguish it from any other history of the disease. However, once Jenner enters the picture, reading the book becomes less of a slog, thanks to the authors’ use of lengthy quotes from the principal players and their ability to turn complex scientific controversies into compelling drama.

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