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  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books


    Ending Epidemics: A History of Escape from Contagion: “Ending Epidemics is an important book, deeply and lovingly researched, written with precision and elegance, a sweeping story of centuries of human battle with infectious disease. Conniff is a brilliant historian with a jeweler’s eye for detail. I think the book is a masterpiece.” Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Salk and His Polio Vaccine? This Woman Figured It Out First.

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 26, 2023


Her name was Isabel Morgan (1911–1996). She was a virologist at Johns Hopkins University. And in 1947, she demonstrated the first effective polio immunization in rhesus monkeys. Morgan had devised a formalin-inactivated vaccine, at a time when most polio researchers believed such a vaccine could not possibly work.

“She converted us and that was quite a feat,” one of her many male colleagues conceded.

That vaccine was the forerunner of the one Jonas Salk introduced eight years later in humans.

So how come you’ve never heard of Isabel Morgan?

Read her story and those of other public health pioneers in Ending Epidemics–A History of Escape from Contagion (due out April 11, MIT Press).

Advance praise for Ending Epidemics: “A timely and highly readable account of humanity’s struggles and progress in the fight against infectious disease. Set across three centuries, from the birth of immunology to the antibiotic revolution, Conniff draws on the personal stories behind these great medical and scientific leaps. A fascinating read with powerful lessons for tackling today’s—and indeed future—epidemics.” — Peter Piot, Former Director and Handa Professor of Global Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

and author of No Time to Lose and AIDS: Between Science and Politics

“A dramatic, page-turning account of the grim, never-ending war waged by infections on humankind. And how we fought back, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.” —Paul A. Offit, Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; author of You Bet Your Life—From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccinations, the Long and Risky History of Medical Innovation.

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