Book Review: Killing Germs, Saving Lives

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Ages 9-12

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We take for granted the presence and effectiveness of vaccines, shots and things that can help cure or prevent us from getting any number of diseases. But these wonders of medicine have not always been with us. Glen Phelan's book Killing Germs, Saving Lives traces the hunt for these vaccines and how those efforts have saved millions of lives in the past century alone.

The prime movers in this field of science are discussed in appropriate detail—Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, and Robert Koch among them. All three of these giants are placed in their historical context, as is the overall study of vaccines. Florence Nightingale also makes an appearance in a nicely detailed section on the advent of nursing.

More than anything else, this book makes it abundantly clear that modern medicine has grown by leaps and bounds exponentially and that vaccines, viewed in historical perspective (via great-looking page-by-page timeline entries), are wonder drugs of the first order. And the author neither talks down to his readers nor sugar-coats the horrible conditions in cities, hospitals, and sick wards across Europe and the U.S.

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