This Was Mankind’s Greatest Project
On Tuesday, I published an entire piece about the deadliest weapon that humans have ever had to contend with. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, HERE’s the link. Today, I want to name a few of the people that arguably saved more lives and brought more prosperity and abundance to the world than any other.
The Chinese were among the first to study smallpox. I know what you’re thinking, but let’s just get on with it. The Chinese realized that the body’s immune system is remarkable at building itself to fight the virus so you could only get it once in your life, but more importantly, they realized there were two types of it and that the mild one wasn’t that bad.
You’ll find their method quite familiar since some people thought it was the proper way to deal with the pandemic we suffered from just a few years ago. They deliberately selected a strong member of the community to contract the mild type. Once they developed symptoms on their skin, they’d take a portion of that infection, grind it to a powder of sorts, and spread it through the noses of others.
This way came with risks, and it did lead to death, but the “greater good,” as we now call it, was achieved by this way of making sure fewer people caught the worst type and more became immune by statistically catching the mild version.
Other parts of the world didn’t think this was a good idea. Even though they clearly saw that far fewer people were dying and their population was growing in Asia, they simply refused to accept that spreading the disease with a methodical approach was a sensible idea. As a result, they continued dying in large numbers.
How did Europe begin to rid itself of this awful biological destroyer?
They began to study societies where smallpox wasn’t a big deal.
Then, the Europeans spun the Asian version of deliberately spreading the virus through the nose. What they did was cut open a wound and infect blood with the virus so the body could learn to fight it once and for all.
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This form of herd immunity still wasn’t perfect since it led to deaths from those who couldn’t even survive the mild version. Then, a major breakthrough came when one scientist discovered cowpox, an even milder version of smallpox that cows contracted. If transmitted to humans, it would serve to build their immune system to fight smallpox.
The Latin word for cow is “vacca,” so the scientist named his form of cure a vaccine. Yes, that’s where this English word comes from…
It was the vision of a Ukrainian scientist that the world should come together to eradicate smallpox for good in the globalizing society of the post-WW2 era.
The first global effort to end a disease and Viktor Zhdanov’s tireless quest to convince everyone to work together finally led to the full and utter elimination of this horrible disease.
If you were born in 1980 onwards, you were born into a world that doesn’t know what smallpox victims are anymore…
We banded together and kicked ass… I just wish we would do it more often.
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