Book Review: Pox – An American History by Michael Willrich

March 31, 2011


“Pox: An American History” by Michael Willrich is a non-fiction book which traces how the smallpox vaccine was distributed during major outbreaks. Some of the vaccines were forced onto people which caused an outrage and the question made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Buy Pox: An American History from*My rating for Pox: An American History4
Buy Pox: An American History from*
More Books by Michael Willrich*


To my great surprise, “Pox: An American History” by Michael Willrich is an extremely readable and fast paced book. What I mean by “readable” is that the book does not simply recite facts, figures, laws, high level agenda etc.

Yes, it does that as well but by telling stories of individuals on both sides of the debate, such as C.P. Wertenbaker, a federal surgeon who worked tirelessly to combat the deadly and preventable disease. On the other side there is Swedish Lutheran minister Henning Jacobson who took his battle to the Supreme Court battling against vaccination.
Those stories, big and small, in context with the overall picture are what make the book a joy to read.

Mr. Willrich goes beyond just reciting facts and figures; he also frames the debate around vaccinations. At a time when people believed that vaccinations are some sort of a vast government conspiracy (in a way it was), a cabal of the feds with the drug manufacturers – sounds familiar?

The questions which were debated and to some extent still are to this day.
What rights can or should the federal government ignore in order to protect us?
What is the price we are willing to pay?
What happens when the interests of the public at large collide with religion/personal conscience?

The accounts detailed in the book are very interesting and I learned a lot from reading them. The research is meticulous but the elegant writing makes the book a joy to read, not only if you are interested in medicine, but also for those interested in history and especially the social classes in the United States.


The book clearly suggests that an overlooked legacy of American dissent was the antivaccinationists. An increasingly powerful government took on the progressive position that the benefit of all people outweighs the problems of the few and started mandatory vaccination campaigns.

An interesting and informative part of American history.

Buy Pox: An American History from*
More Books by Michael Willrich*

TLC Book Tour for “Pox: An American History”:
Thursday, March 31st: Man of La Book
Monday, April 4th: Aetiology
Wednesday, April 6th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, April 7th: Raging Bibliomania
Tuesday, April 12th: Amy Reads
Wednesday, April 13th: Superbug
Thursday, April 14th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Tuesday, April 19th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, April 20th: Rhapsody In Books
Thursday, April 21st: Take Me Away
Monday, April 25th: Mommypotamus
Tuesday, April 26th: Eclectic/Eccentric
Wednesday, April 27th: Life Is A Patchwork Quilt
Thursday, April 28th: PhD in Parenting

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free as part of TLC Book Tours
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

I got this book for free as part of the

Enhanced by Zemanta

BOOK BLOGGERS – Have you read “Pox: An American History”? If so link up your review below

--- Please like and follow ---
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Pox: An American History by Michael Willrich
Author Rating
Product Name
Pox: An American History by Michael Willrich

Wrap Up

Pox: An American History by Michael Willrich


  • JamiePearsonMarch 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    This actually sounds like a really great read. I love books about both science and history and I imagine that the fact that it tells the stories of individuals instead of just strict facts would make it a much more accessible book to read.

    • zoharMarch 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks for the comment Jamie. This is how history should be taught, makes books a lot more fun to read.

  • LeslieMarch 31, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Great review, the discriptions almost gives me a feeling of anxiety myself, almost as if I were the one dealing with the issues. It is easy to find that in the book but not always in the review. Way to go.

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book ToursApril 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I’m a huge fan of “disease” books … morbid, but still, it’s the truth. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 + 4 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial
Visit Us
Follow Me
Post on X