A Shot in the Arm (Big Ideas that Changed the World)
Big Ideas That Changed the World is a graphic novel series that celebrates the hard-won succession of ideas that ultimately changed the world. Humor, drama, and art unite to tell the story of events, discoveries, and ingenuity over time that led humans to come up with a big idea and then make it come true.
Brown introduces us to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who lived in England in the late 1600s. Her society was dealing with smallpox, and we are given a good history of that disease and the treatments it inspired. When smallpox threatened her own family, she investigated an innoculation where smallpox scabs were inserted under the skin, and this seemed to be fairly effective in lessening the effects of the disease, and Montagu is credited with popularizing this defense against a devastating disease.
We then cross the pond and deal with smallpox in the Colonies, and see how Cotton Mather ran into difficulties when he tried to help the Boston smallpox epidemic of 1721 with the treatment. The alternate approach, to inoculate with cow pox, is fully explained, and there is discussion of other vaccinations (as they are called after those experiments) as well as the push back against them. Other scientists, like Koch and Pasteur, are introduced, and protection against diseases like anthrax in farm populations is discussed. Polio gets full coverage, which is quite interesting, because I had never heard of some of the deaths related to some of the vaccines, and how people were a bit leery-- I assumed that everyone was completely behind either the shot or the oral vaccine for polio! The faulty link to autism is debunked.
Of course, COVID-19 ends the book, so is a nice way to frame all of the previous information into something that young readers have experienced themselves. The politics surrounding the creation and distribution of the vaccine are omitted, and that's probably just as well. This current pandemic receives just an overview, which will be perfect when we are out of the throes of it. The additional timeline of virus research and brief biography of Montagu, bibliography and author's notes round out this useful graphic nonfiction book.