We already have the wheel and gun powder and the internet. So … Haven’t scientists already invented and explained enough already?
I don’t think so.
I’d like to relate just one family story about a modern scientific discovery that has benefited people all over the world. Unfortunately, it arrived just a little bit too late for my sister.
It was spring, and Sue was barely eight year old when she fell ill. The symptoms were fever, headache, and sore throat. It could have been anything. After a week or two, she seemed to be all right.
A few weeks later, she came down with a bad case of chicken pox. While bathing her and, I suppose, applying calamine lotion, Mom noticed that one of Sue’s shoulder blades stuck out at a strange angle.
The doctor didn’t know what to make of it, so he just shrugged and prescribed massage. Eventually, however, it dawned on him what the problem was. My sister was suffering from the effects of polio.
A brilliant diagnosis? Not really. In 1955, polio wasn’t a rare disease. In fact, in 1952, there were 58,000 cases of polio in the US and more than 3000 deaths.
My sister and mother spent the next three years traveling thirty-five miles each way to see a specialist who examined Sue and oversaw her treatment and physical therapy. In another section of his clinic, the doctor oversaw the care of some of the most tragic victims of polio, children who had to spend the rest of their lives inside iron lungs.
(The picture below is from wikimedia.)
Years earlier, our Great-uncle Wes and Great-aunt Doddy also had polio. Aunt Doddy was about the same age Sue was when she got sick. Hers was a more serious case, and she spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
Science to the rescue … just a little late for Sue.
In 1953 Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had successfully tested a vaccine against polio. In 1954, clinical trials began. And in the spring of 1955, (the exact time when Sue was coming down with polio) a nationwide inoculation campaign began.
If you and your family have been spared this terrible disease, you can say a big “thank you” to science.
Here’s a sign being carried in yesterday’s March for Science in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of sister Sue)
Sue and my daughter both took part in marches for science yesterday. Here are a few of their photos:
Does science matter to you in a personal way?
Neil deGrasse Tyson put out a new four-minute video that I think sums up nicely the crucial importance of science in America today.