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.
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.
Wear DJ, Casey BL. Smallpox. JAMA. 2005;293(14):1798-1802. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1801-a