Isaac Asimov on the History of Infectious Disease—and How Humanity Learned to Fight Back

Children in Mississippi get vaccinated against polio with the Salk vaccine in 1956.

(Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

[EDITOR'S FORWARD: Humanity has always faced existential threats from dangerous microbes, and though this is the first pandemic in our lifetimes, it won't be the last our species will ever face. This newly relevant work by beloved sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov, an excerpt from his 1979 book, A Choice of Catastrophes, establishes that reality in its historical context and makes clear how far we have come since ancient times. But by some measures, we are still in the earliest stages of figuring out how to effectively neutralize such threats. Advancing progress as fast as we can—by leveraging all the insights of modern science—offers our best hope for containing this pandemic and those that will inevitably follow.]

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Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a legendary American author and biochemist who wrote science fiction and popular science books. He wrote or edited about 500 volumes, of which the most famous are those in the Foundation and Robot series.
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