Henderson informed the man that he had a tyre waiting for collection.
August 22, 2016 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Dr. Donald Ainslie "D.A." Henderson, the Chief Medical Officer of the World Health Organization's fight against smallpox, has died at the age of 87.

The effort to eradicate smallpox took a decade and was one of the most extensive undertakings in human history. Henderson and the WHO used diplomacy, cash rewards, and any other tactic they could think of:
Having reached a political impasse with officials in Ethiopia, he struck up an acquaintance with the private physician of emperor Haile Selassie, whose recommendation set the programme in motion nationwide.
After smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979, several governments maintained samples for biowarfare and biodefense purposes; Henderson argued against this, saying that even an accidental release would be catastrophic in a now-unvaccinated population (such a release in Birmingham, England, in 1978 led to three deaths).
posted by Etrigan (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Smallpox: The Death of a Disease is a great read. What he and is team achieved was a powerful example of what global cooperation (and the absence of a natural reservoir) can accomplish.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 9:26 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


And here's hoping you're next, polio.
posted by TedW at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2016

Your . is premature.

The virus exists and is in the hands of governments that have previously developed - and are certainly very capable of again developing - war plans that involve sacrificing tens of millions of their own citizens for some perceived advantage. And, that leaves aside non-state actors.

Vaccine is available and stockpiles exist. However, the efficacy of a crash vaccination program in response to release of a weaponized agent is unproven.
posted by sudogeek at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2016

I still have my vaccination scar - a small cut with a scalpel. There's a long backstory that's irrelevant here but this man changed our world.

posted by infini at 10:53 AM on August 22, 2016

I believe the . is for Dr. Henderson, not for the disease. And he certainly merits it.
posted by cookie-k at 11:03 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

posted by emd3737 at 11:51 AM on August 22, 2016


I did my senior thesis on the WHO smallpox eradication campaign, and the people involved were/are among the most influential world-shapers in human history.
posted by monopas at 12:12 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have a goddess of smallpox
posted by infini at 12:55 PM on August 22, 2016

posted by bryon at 1:07 PM on August 22, 2016

so many lives saved. may history remember him and what he did.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:18 PM on August 22, 2016

posted by Joe in Australia at 2:49 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

A friend of the family and a seriously nice guy. It is ironic that he was taken down after a hip fracture by the next scary beast that he had in fact studied: MRSA. The world needs heroes like him, now more than ever. May he rest in peace, and here's hoping he finds a good foursome for bridge.
posted by skippyhacker at 3:12 PM on August 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

. for Dr. Henderson. No mourning for smallpox, which survives as Chekov's Samples.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 4:58 AM on August 24, 2016

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