The Polio Crusade

April 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Medicine 

In the summer of 1950 fear gripped the residents of Wytheville, Virginia. Movie theaters shut down, baseball games were cancelled and panicky parents kept their children indoors — anything to keep them safe from an invisible invader. Outsiders sped t…
American Experience: The Polio Crusade
Airs Monday, April 12, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Credit: March of Dimes

Above: Nurse and child with polio. This program is the story of the largest public health experiment in American history — the effort to eradicate polio, one of the 20th-century’s most dreaded diseases.
April 9, 2010
It was the largest public health experiment in American history – a crusade that eradicated polio, one of the 20th century’s most dreaded diseases. The polio epidemic terrified Americans for decades, affecting thousands of children, leaving many crippled, paralyzed or condemned to life in an iron lung.

Photo Gallery
In the mid-twentieth century, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (predecessor to today’s March of Dimes) pioneered a new approach to philanthropy, raising money a dime at a time from millions of small donors. The nonprofit enlisted poster children, celebrities, presidents, and other partners in their high-profile campaigns. View the photos.
But on April 26, 1954, hope emerged. At the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, six-year-old Randy Kerr stood at the head of a long line of children and waited patiently while a nurse gently rolled up his sleeve, then filled a syringe with a cherry-colored liquid containing the world’s first polio vaccine.

Developed just a few years earlier by virologist Jonas Salk, the polio vaccine had not yet been widely tested on humans. No one was certain it was safe or whether it could provide effective protection against the disease. In the coming weeks, nearly two million school children in 44 states received the shots. The Salk vaccine trials were the dramatic culmination of years of research and a multi-million dollar investment, made up in large part by public donations.

Based in part on David Oshinsky’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Polio: An American Story,” “The Polio Crusade” chronicles a decades-long crusade, fueled by the bold leadership of a single philanthropy and its innovative public relations campaign, and features a bitter battle between two scientists and the breakthrough of a now-forgotten woman researcher.

The 20th-century effort to eradicate polio is chronicled. Included: lawyer Basil O’Connor (1892-1972), who developed the “March of Dimes” concept to help fund research; the competition between polio researchers Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.

Polio Virus

April 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Medicine 
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Quote. To initiate infection, the virus must first attach to its cell-surface receptor and then deliver its RNA to the appropriate cellular compartment. End Quote. -David Belnap, biochemist, 2000
Poliomyelitis is a viral disease. There are three types of poliovirus and many strains of each type. The virus enters through the mouth and multiplies in the throat and gastrointestinal tract, then moves into the bloodstream and is carried to the central nervous system where it replicates and destroys the motor neuron cells. Motor neurons control the muscles for swallowing, circulation, respiration, and the trunk, arms, and legs.

Human nerve cells have a protruding protein structure on their surface whose precise function is unknown. When poliovirus encounters the nerve cells, the protruding receptors attach to the virus particle, and infection begins. Once inside the cell, the virus hijacks the cell’s assembly process, and makes thousands of copies of itself in hours. The virus kills the cell and then spreads to infect other cells.

bullet Many types of human cells have receptors that fit the poliovirus; no one knows why the virus favors motor neurons over other cells for replication.
bullet For every 200 or so virus particles that encounter a susceptible cell, only one will successfully enter and replicate.
bullet In tissue culture, poliovirus enters cells and replicates in six to eight hours, yielding 10,000 to 100,000 virus particles per cell.
bullet One way the human immune system protects itself is by producingantibodies that engage the protein covering of the poliovirus, preventing the virus from interacting with another cell.
bullet There are three types of poliovirus: 1, 2, and 3. Type 1 is the most virulent and common. Both the Salk and Sabin vaccines are “trivalent” that is, active against all three virus types. Type 2 poliovirus has not been detected anywhere in the world since 1999.
bullet A person who gets polio is immune to future infection from the virus type that caused the polio.
Illustration of the poliovirus attached to neuron receptors
Poliovirus bound to a neuron receptor Illustration courtesy of Link Studio
Photo of poliovirus bronze models next to microscopic images
Scientifically accurate bronze models (without patina) of the poliovirus created for the Smithsonian by Edgar Meyer, 2005.
These models are an adaptation of James Hogle’s image of the poliovirus and were specially cast in bronze for the exhibit. They are the first three dimensioanl representations of the poliovirus

Poliovirus Capsid Model and Scientific Art
Scientists use many types of models to visualize concepts about the real world. Environmentalists and climatologists make computer graphics models of the entire earth. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick used a brass model of DNA‘s structure—the so-called “double helix”—as a physical analog of genes. All models are partly right and partly wrong because they represent only a level of knowledge at a given time. This bronze model of the poliovirus was made by for the exhibition by biochemist/artist Edgar Meyer, based on the first three-dimensional images of poliovirus that virologist James Hogle at Harvard obtained from X-ray crystallography in 2000. While the model represents the surface relief at a very high resolution, the shell (capsid) in nature is more complex than artwork or X-ray crystallography can show.

A Vaccine to Prevent Polio
Scientists could make vaccines even before they completely understood how they functioned. Eventually researchers learned that vaccines work by fooling the body’s immune system into producing antibodies even though there is no disease. Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin used this knowledge to create two different kinds of polio vaccines.

Life Cycle of the Poliovirus Animation (popup window)
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Illustration of the life cyle of the poliovirus
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Life cycle of the poliovirus
Illustration courtesy NMAH

Photo of James Hogle
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James Hogle in his Harvard Medical School lab, 2000

Apr 25, 1983: Andropov writes to U.S. student

April 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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On this day in 1983, the Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader from Manchester, Maine, inviting her to visit his country. Andropov’s letter came in response to a note Smith had sent him in December 1982, asking if the Soviets were planning to start a nuclear war. At the time, the United States and Soviet Union were Cold War enemies.

President Ronald Reagan, a passionate anti-communist, had dubbed the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and called for massive increases in U.S. defense spending to meet the perceived Soviet threat. In his public relations duel with Reagan, known as the “Great Communicator,” Andropov, who had succeeded longtime Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, assumed a folksy, almost grandfatherly approach that was incongruous with the negative image most Americans had of the Soviets.

Andropov’s letter said that Russian people wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about whether the Soviet Union wished to prevent nuclear war, Andropov declared, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth.” Andropov also complimented Smith, comparing her to the spunky character Becky Thatcher from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.

Smith, born June 29, 1972, accepted Andropov’s invitation and flew to the Soviet Union with her parents for a visit. Afterward, she became an international celebrity and peace ambassador, making speeches, writing a book and even landing a role on an American television series. In February 1984, Yuri Andropov died from kidney failure and was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko. The following year, in August 1985, Samantha Smith died tragically in a plane crash at age 13.

Andropov writes to U.S. student. (2011). The History Channel website. Retrieved 7:09, April 26, 2011, from

China detains Protestant Shouwang devotees

April 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church History 

China detains Protestant Shouwang devotees

Police were out in force to stop the worshippers – and question foreign media

At least 20 Chinese Protestants have been detained as they tried to gather for an Easter service in Beijing.

The worshippers, from the Shouwang church, were trying to hold an outdoor service because they are prevented from using their own premises.

Police have recently arrested dozens of people from the church.

The authorities have also been carrying out a wider suppression of dissent – harassing foreign reporters and detaining lawyers and activists.

The most high-profile detainee, artist Ai Weiwei, was taken by police as he tried to board a flight earlier this month.

His family say they do not know where he is, whether he has been charged with an offence, or even whether he has been formally arrested.

China’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the Communist Party tries to control where people worship.

There are an estimated 70 million Christians in the country, about 20 million of whom attend government-approved churches.

The rest worship with unregistered groups known as “house” churches.

Such groups are broadly tolerated, but Shouwang leaders have annoyed the authorities in recent weeks by insisting on trying to hold services in the open.

Shouwang is one of Beijing’s biggest so-called underground Churches, with more than 1,000 members.

The BBC’s Damian Grammaticas in Beijing says police personnel were on every street corner in the area where the worshippers were due to meet on Sunday morning.

He says the authorities rounded up anyone suspected of being a member of the Shouwang church and loaded them on to buses to be driven to police stations.

One of the church’s leaders Jin Tianming, who is under house arrest, told AFP news agency that between 20 and 30 members had been detained.

He said they had been taken to several different police stations.

About 100 Shouwang members were held earlier this month, and 12 of its leaders are under house arrest.

Bob Fu, of the US-based Christian China Aid Association, says the crackdown on Christian worship is wider than Beijing.

He says churchgoers in the southern city of Guangzhou have been refused permission to hold Easter services, and Christians in the northern city of Hohhot are facing repression.

“There is a very large house church in Hohhot. They were also under crackdown. More than a dozen of the leaders are now under criminal detention,” said Mr Fu, who is a critic of Beijing’s religious policies.

The authorities have not yet commented on the latest detentions.
BBC News

Library of Congress established

April 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress – and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein…”
Established with $5,000 appropriated by the legislation, the original library was housed in the new Capitol until August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library.
Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent 50 years accumulating books, “putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science”; his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States. In offering his collection to Congress, Jefferson anticipated controversy over the nature of his collection, which included books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics not normally viewed as part of a legislative library. He wrote, “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”
In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library. The Jeffersonian concept of universality, the belief that all subjects are important to the library of the American legislature, is the philosophy and rationale behind the comprehensive collecting policies of today’s Library of Congress.
Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress from 1864 to 1897, applied Jefferson’s philosophy on a grand scale and built the Library into a national institution. Spofford was responsible for the copyright law of 1870, which required all copyright applicants to send to the Library two copies of their work. This resulted in a flood of books, pamphlets, maps, music, prints, and photographs. Facing a shortage of shelf space at the Capitol, Spofford convinced Congress of the need for a new building, and in 1873 Congress authorized a competition to design plans for the new Library.
In 1886, after many proposals and much controversy, Congress authorized construction of a new Library building in the style of the Italian Renaissance in accordance with a design prepared by Washington architects John L. Smithmeyer and Paul J. Pelz.
The Congressional authorization was successful because of the hard work of two key Senators: Daniel W. Voorhees (Indiana), who served as chairman of the Joint Committee from 1879 to 1881, and Justin S. Morrill (Vermont), chairman of Senate Committee on Buildings and Grounds.
In 1888, General Thomas Lincoln Casey, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, was placed in charge of construction. His chief assistant was Bernard R. Green, who was intimately involved with the building until his death in 1914. Beginning in 1892, a new architect, Edward Pearce Casey, the son of General Casey, began to supervise the interior work, including sculptural and painted decoration by more than 50 American artists.
When the Library of Congress building opened its doors to the public on November 1, 1897, it was hailed as a glorious national monument and “the largest, the costliest, and the safest” library building in the world.
Today’s Library of Congress is an unparalleled world resource. The collection of more than 144 million items includes more than 33 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages; more than 63 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.
Joint Committee on the Library
The Joint Committee on the Library (the oldest continuing Joint Committee of the U.S. Congress) was created on April 24, 1800, when President John Adams signed the bill establishing the federal government in Washington and creating the Library of Congress. The act appropriated $5,000 for “the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress” after it moved to the new capital city of Washington. The Library’s appropriation for fiscal year 1811 officially made the Joint Committee on the Library a standing committee. From the 95th Congress forward, the Joint Committee on the Library has been composed of the chairman (or designee) and four members each from the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Committee on House Administration. The chairmanship and vice chairmanship alternate between the House and Senate every Congress.
The Librarian of Congress
James Hadley Billington was nominated in April 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and was confirmed by the Senate to be the 13th Librarian of Congress. He took the oath of office in the Library’s Great Hall on September 14, 1987. For information on past Librarians of Congress, visit here.

Hitler Commits Suicide

April 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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On this day,April 30, in 1945, holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler commits suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head. Soon after, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces, e…
On this day in 1945, holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler commits suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head. Soon after, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces, ending Hitler’s dreams of a “1,000-year” Reich.

Since at least 1943, it was becoming increasingly clear that Germany would fold under the pressure of the Allied forces. In February of that year, the German 6th Army, lured deep into the Soviet Union, was annihilated at the Battle of Stalingrad, and German hopes for a sustained offensive on both fronts evaporated. Then, in June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed at Normandy, France, and began systematically to push the Germans back toward Berlin. By July 1944, several German military commanders acknowledged their imminent defeat and plotted to remove Hitler from power so as to negotiate a more favorable peace. Their attempts to assassinate Hitler failed, however, and in his reprisals, Hitler executed over 4,000 fellow countrymen.

In January 1945, facing a siege of Berlin by the Soviets, Hitler withdrew to his bunker to live out his final days. Located 55 feet under the chancellery, the shelter contained 18 rooms and was fully self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. Though he was growing increasingly mad, Hitler continued to give orders and meet with such close subordinates as Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Josef Goebbels. He also married his long-time mistress Eva Braun just two days before his suicide.

In his last will and testament, Hitler appointed Admiral Karl Donitz as head of state and Goebbels as chancellor. He then retired to his private quarters with Braun, where he and Braun poisoned themselves and their dogs, before Hitler then also shot himself with his service pistol.

Hitler and Braun’s bodies were hastily cremated in the chancellery garden, as Soviet forces closed in on the building. When the Soviets reached the chancellery, they removed Hitler’s ashes, continually changing their location so as to prevent Hitler devotees from creating a memorial at his final resting place. Only eight days later, on May 8, 1945, the German forces issued an unconditional surrender, leaving Germany to be carved up by the four Allied powers.

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