Viruses and Vaccines from the Past to the Present
Right now, researchers in Canada and around the world are working to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and we are all eagerly awaiting news and updates. At the same time, there have been many articles comparing the COVID-19 virus and pandemic to other viruses and pandemics throughout history. In many cases, scientists discovering treatments and developing vaccines halted the spread of these viruses, improving and preserving human life. Read on for books and online resources on historic viruses and vaccines.
For reputable, contemporary information on vaccines, be sure to check out the reading list, Toronto Public Health Recommends: Books on Vaccination.
Books on Epidemics, Viruses and Vaccines
Epidemics and the Modern World by Mitchell L. Hammond. Print only.
This recent title by Canadian author Mitchell L. Hammond explores the relationships between epidemics and key themes in modern history. These themes include colonial structures, relationships to animals, perceptions of suffering and more.
Edward Jenner by Rob Boddice. Print only.
"Edward Jenner is a giant of modern medicine. Throughout history, smallpox had plagued humanity with disfigurement, blindness, and death. It was an incurable blight, the suffering of which Jenner helped bring to an end. This is the story of Jenner’s life, his medical vision, and his profound legacy."
Smallpox: The Death of a Disease by Donald A Henderson.
"This spellbinding book is Dr. Henderson’s personal story of how he led the World Health Organization’s campaign to eradicate smallpox—the only disease in history to have been deliberately eliminated. Some have called this feat, "the greatest scientific and humanitarian achievement of the past century"."
Jonas Salk: A Life by Charlotte Jacobs.
"When a waiting world learned on April 12, 1955, that Jonas Salk had successfully created a vaccine to prevent poliomyelitis, he became a hero overnight."
Louis Pasteur by Patrice Debré. Print only.
"Distinguished French immunologist and physician Patrice Debré offers an extensive, balanced, and detailed account of Louis Pasteur’s life, struggles, and contributions."
The End of Plagues by John Rhodes.
Spanning three centuries, The End of Plagues weaves together the discovery of vaccination, the birth and growth of immunology, and the fight to eradicate the world’s most feared diseases.
Videos and Tutorials
With your library card, you can access several streaming services with lectures, courses and documentaries. To access these resources, you will be asked to sign in with your library card.
- On HSTalks, check out The History of Vaccines by Professor Stanley Plotkin, University of Pensylvania.
- The documentary Calling the Shots is available to watch online via Hoopla and explores vaccines in history and how vaccines work.
- An Introduction to Infectious Diseases is part of a Great Courses series available through Kanopy.
Our Digital Archive
For up to date information on COVID-19, check out our information guide. Updated daily, we recommend these resources: