The following discussion questions are provided as a starting
point for discussion groups. Pick those questions that
you think your group would most enjoy discussing. We
hope that providing multiple questions gives you enough options
to engage your group in an interesting discussion.
- How did the author's conversational style and use of dialog
- What did you learn about scientific work that surprised,
delighted or dismayed you?
- Did this book change your opinion of F.D.R.?
- The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis used local
volunteers as well as celebrities to raise money for the care for
the victims of polio and later to search for a cure.
How has involvement at the local level changed or has it stayed
- How did the author represent Albert Sabin and the "live
vaccine" side of the debate?
- Do you feel that you got to know or understand Salk?
Was he a hero? Why do you think he was or was not?
- How do you account for Salk's failure to recognize the others in
- How do you relate the research done on polio to current debates
on stem cell research or the ethical treatment of animals?
- This book illustrated the long-term investment, cost, and
pitfalls in developing a vaccine. What implications has
that had for the development and production of vaccines in the
U.S. in the present time?
- Share your memories of polio and its
- Describe the relationship between:
"A scientist working on a project like
polio vaccine needs to be politically astute." What does that statement mean?
How did the book help you to
understand the anxiety associated with polio, the terror when the
vaccines developed by Park-Brodie and Kolmer caused sickness and
death, and the jubilation when a vaccine finally worked?
When trying to understand the spread
of the disease scientists realized that it became an epidemic in
the "nineteenth century - just the era when indoor
bathrooms and sealed plumbing were keeping hands cleaner and
sewage more contained than ever before. The
counterintuitive explanation was that while the poliovirus in
human waste and elsewhere could spread the disease, it could also
inoculate against it." (p.89) Are we too clean today?
FDR and Basil O'Connor
Salk and John Troan
Salk and Sabin