© 2018

Vaccination in America

Medical Science and Children’s Welfare


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Richard J. Altenbaugh
    Pages 1-8
  3. Diseases, Death, and Disability

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 9-9
    2. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 11-27
    3. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 29-48
    4. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 49-66
  4. Friendly Persuasion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 67-67
    2. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 69-91
    3. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 93-112
    4. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 113-129
  5. Ethical Authority?

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 131-131
    2. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 133-143
    3. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 145-171
    4. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 173-195
    5. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 197-212
    6. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 213-230
  6. Line Up and Roll Up Your Sleeves

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 231-231
    2. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 233-253
    3. Richard J. Altenbaugh
      Pages 255-265
  7. Intellectual Authority?

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 267-267

About this book


The success of the polio vaccine was a remarkable breakthrough for medical science, effectively eradicating a dreaded childhood disease. It was also the largest medical experiment to use American schoolchildren. Richard J. Altenbaugh examines an uneasy conundrum in the history of vaccination: even as vaccines greatly mitigate the harm that infectious disease causes children, the process of developing these vaccines put children at great risk as research subjects. In the first half of the twentieth century, in the face of widespread resistance to vaccines, public health officials gradually medicalized American culture through mass media, public health campaigns, and the public education system. Schools supplied tens of thousands of young human subjects to researchers, school buildings became the main dispensaries of the polio antigen, and the mass immunization campaign that followed changed American public health policy in profound ways. Tapping links between bioethics, education, public health, and medical research, this book raises fundamental questions about child welfare and the tension between private and public responsibility that still fuel anxieties around vaccination today. 


history of vaccine policy public suspicion toward governmental vaccination policy history of the polio vaccine MMR vaccine policy in America Salk vaccine trials poliomyelitis history of public education infantile paralysis cowpox vaccine antivaccination movement Progressive Era public health smallpox inoculation children in medical research studies Nuremberg Code mass immunization federal policy childhood vaccination MMR and autism child welfare medical research

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

About the authors

Richard J. Altenbaugh is Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, and former Visiting Fellow at St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge, UK. His most recent book is The Last Children’s Plague: Poliomyelitis, Disability, and Twentieth-Century American Culture.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Vaccination in America
  • Book Subtitle Medical Science and Children’s Welfare
  • Authors Richard J. Altenbaugh
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-96348-8
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-07179-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-96349-5
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages VIII, 355
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics US History
    History of Medicine
    Social History
    Children, Youth and Family Policy
    US Politics
    History of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“This could be a book for parents whose children would be vaccinated. … More widely, it is a book for practitioners who have to cope with parental refusal of vaccination, historians of social medicine and, possibly, students of the history of medicine thanks to its interdisciplinary approach combining bioethics, education, research, and public health policies.” (Alain Touwaide, Doody's Book Reviews, May 31, 2019)