In the only history of its kind, Etheridge traces the development of the Centers for Disease Control from its inception as a malaria control unit during World War II through the mid-1980s . The eradication of smallpox, the struggle to identify an effective polio vaccine, the unraveling of the secrets of Legionnaires' disease, and the shock over the identification of the HIV virus are all chronicled here. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and source documents, Etheridge vividly recreates the vital decision-making incidents that shaped both the growth of this institution as well as the state of public health in this country for the last five decades.
We follow the development of the institution as it was transformed by the will and the imagination of remarkable individuals such as Dr. Joseph Mountin, one of the first heads of the CDC. Often characterized as abrasive and impatient, Mountin pushed the CDC to become a vital player in eradicating the threat of communicable disease in the United States. Others such as Dr. Alexander Langmuir brought the expertise necessary to establish epidemiology as one of the primary functions of the CDC.
Created to serve the states and to answer any call for help whether routine or extraordinary, the CDC is now widely recognized as one of the world's premier public health institutions.
Elizabeth W. Etheridge is Professor of History at Longwood College.