• The Moth in the Iron Lung

  • A Biography of Polio
  • By: Forrest Maready
  • Narrated by: Forrest Maready
  • Length: 5 hrs and 54 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (398 ratings)

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The Moth in the Iron Lung

By: Forrest Maready
Narrated by: Forrest Maready
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Publisher's Summary

A fascinating account of the world’s most famous disease - polio - told as you have never heard it before. Epidemics of paralysis began to rage in the early 1900s, seemingly out of nowhere. Doctors, parents, and health officials were at a loss to explain why this formerly unheard-of disease began paralyzing so many children - usually starting in their legs, sometimes moving up through their abdomen and arms. For an unfortunate few, it could paralyze the muscles that allowed them to breathe. 

Why did this disease start to become such a horrible problem during the late 1800s? Why did it affect children more often than adults? Why was it originally called teething paralysis by mothers and their doctors? Why were animals so often paralyzed during the early epidemics when it was later discovered most animals could not become infected? The Moth in the Iron Lung is a fascinating biography of this horrible paralytic disease, where it came from, and why it disappeared in the 1950s. If you’ve never explored the polio story beyond the tales of crippled children and iron lungs, this book will be sure to surprise.

©2018 Forrest Maready (P)2018 Forrest Maready

What listeners say about The Moth in the Iron Lung

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Root Cause

As a daughter of an iron lung survivor (1948-49, I think), this was a fascinating account. I remain skeptical of government studies of health care matters of any sort; just have to look at studies involving syphilis, swine flu, pandemic bird flu and more recently the Zeke virus. Accounts such as the polio story and others should continually "follow the money" and include that information and findings.

15 people found this helpful

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A Necessary Recount of The Man Made Polio Epidemic

Forrest Maready's fascinating recount of the Polio Epidemic through the lense of man made disease caused by heavy metals and pesticides is a must read. It uncovers how the early use of lead arsenic pesticides proceeded by the use of Paris Green had an uncanny nack to track Polio outbreaks throughout the US. Boston was ground zero as there was a plague of gypse moths which were introduced into the region following the Civil War.

Clear, to inform the reader of early cases of infantile Paralysis caused by mercurial based medicines and teething powders used up until the 1950s. We are informed of how Poliomyelitis of the anterior horn, infantile Paralysis, would cause paralaysis typically of the lower extremities without loss of the sense of touch. The disease, polio, which would later be discovered in the quest to find a single cause for infantile Paralysis using Koch's postulates, was quite common and bening before the 1890 outbreak in Boston.

Most likely, with the stomach lining weakened due to pesticide poisoning the Polio virus found a direct path to the front of the lower spine and created lesions of the Grey matter. These lesions resulted in to infantile Paralysis.

And so the tale continues in which numerous causes were discovered along the way by leading researchers including a strep like bacteria; however, such discoveries and understanding of man made disease would get lost along the way.

Eventually, the peak of the Epidemic occurs after citizens are bombarded with DDT following world war 2 in the 50s. The American public keenly aware of the toxic effects began halting the use of DDT in the mid to late 1850s around the same time Silent Spring was published in 1962.

During this time, the Cutter incident, occurred in 1955, in which his inactivated polio virus vaccine was not fully inactivated. This resulted in more than 40,000 cases of polio, 200 cases of infantile Paralysis and 10 deaths.

With a new definition for polio, and two new vaccines the "rates" of polio dropped along with the decreased use of DDT and heavy medicinal metals. Was it the vaccine? Was it the reduction of heavy metal medicines? Was it the elimination of DDT in the US which led to the decrease of infantile Paralysis?

Much more is discussed in this well researched book. Including the history of the iron lung and counterexamples to the argument that better sanitation resulted in first world citizens being susceptible to infantile Paralysis.

15 people found this helpful

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Key details missing

The game changing 1954 Salk Vaccine trial not mentioned. Work of Rotary International and partners not mentioned.

Sorry, but I’m deeply involved in polio eradication and Maready is missing more facts than he has. And many postulates he puts forth as facts don’t make sense. Example: if polio caused/facilitated by metal poisoning why is it a summer disease? Why has it historically spiked after the haj? Why is it presently in Pakistan & Afghanistan and nowhere else?

14 people found this helpful

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An important book for all students of history

This is a must read for those trying to make sense of the puzzle over today's vaccine mandates. And the story might be devastating to anybody who wants to keep believing that pharmaceutical companies have always had their best interest in mind. Narrative style makes it easy to follow the thread. Protect your health.

12 people found this helpful

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AntiVaxer book STEER CLEAR!

I’m willing to overlook someone’s past works if something seems to be solid. And this did. Until I did some fact checking. I hadn’t read the authors other books, only saw them by title after I started this one. But I still went ahead…
But the science just wasn’t there, the facts were played with and evidence chosen to fit his bill. My qualms with the book just piled up through my reading and I had to put it down halfway. This is a misinformation piece, not something audible should be even selling.
This stuff undermines science by dressing up as a lookalike, but those who take the time to study what we read can tell the difference. I’m a medicine student, so I thought this would be a relevant read, ended up throughly irritated with the book’s constant misrepresentation of simple facts.

8 people found this helpful

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Lacks Appropriate Balance

While I found some of the information in this book interesting, it took me a while to understand what the author was trying to tell readers about a link between polio and insects. He presents data concerning the heavy use of pesticides especially during the first half of the 20th century, and then attempts to connect this with the dramatic increase in serious paralytic and fatal cases of polio.

I remember the chemical clouds that fogged our neighborhoods during the summer months as planes flew low over us dispensing huge quantities of DDT for mosquito control. We ran and played through this mist without concern. I don't know if my mother sprinkled powered DDT in my lunches, but I do know that she took me to the "better" shoe stores where my feet were X-Rayed to insure "perfect fit." She did her best to protect me from the dangers of stunted feet while unknowingly exposing me to high levels of radiation for no actual benefit. I also remember the fear that permeated our communities during the summer months when we were not allowed to swim in city pools or go to the movies because polio was striking kids down all around us. Were these related? I'd never thought about it, even considered it.

Everyone smoked and drove after drinking too much alcohol. And we spread dangerous chemicals on growing fruits and vegetables in the belief that "perfect fruit" is best. We did a lot of things back then. And we hid inside our houses during the hot August months during the polio epidemics that swept through our communities. When the Salk vaccine became available in 1955, we rejoiced, and our parents rushed us to the nearest doctor to be vaccinated, to be protected from this virus that killed and maimed indiscriminately. It was, and still is, a miracle! I never had to worry about my own children getting polio, and I will always be grateful.

Forrest Maready makes a case in this book that the situation is more complicated. He appears to see little value in the vaccines themselves. Instead, he draws connections between the dramatic rise in paralytic polio cases and the profligate use of lethal pesticides and extensive inappropriate prescribing of penicillin. Add the inclusion in many products of heavy metals, especially arsenic and lead. He believes that these factors, more than the polio virus itself, was the culprit in these epidemics. He probably has a point that these factors were in play to some extent. The question is to what degree?

Maready appears to almost entirely discount the impact of the polio vaccines in ending polio throughout much of the world. It is at this point that the author and I diverge. By the end of this book I became quite dubious and began to suspect that that this author just might be an Anti-vaxxer. While his information is worth considering as factors in increasing the severity of disease, he lost credibility when he overstated his conclusions. We can agree that pesticides and ingestion of heavy metals are unspeakably dangerous, but I firmly believe in vaccinations. I get them and I make sure that my animals do as well. Vaccines have revolutionized our war with infectious disease, stopping epidemics before they build up steam. Many once deadly diseases are seldom thought of now because nearly all of us are vaccinated against them in early life.

I find it puzzling that this book received so many high ratings from other readers. In my opinion Macready does not present a fair and balanced argument against the efficacy of modern vaccines. I believe that our immune systems can be damaged by a degraded, toxic environment, but I continue to support vaccine research and universal distribution along with a healthy, toxin-free environment.

6 people found this helpful

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Did you know that, because I surely did not...

The story starts with accounts of history that would seem to be irrelevant, however as the book progresses, the connections becomes clear and insightful. Overall this is an interesting listen and would recommend it. I have learned something I did not already know.

6 people found this helpful

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Incredible.

“Humans prefer a heroic story, rather than one of dismal failure.”

Excellent read, very engaging.

5 people found this helpful

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Great book!

Incredibly fascinating and illuminating. So many details I had never heard of. Can't wait to listen again.

5 people found this helpful

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Not Science.

This came up as a recommended read and I bought it excited to learn more about the history of Polio. I quickly realized my mistake. It mostly infers that pesticides cause polio, a common form of Polio anti-vaccine misinformation.
Polio viruses cause Polio.
Returned book.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Toby
  • 09-15-20

Fascinating account of the famous disease

Very convincing, thorough account of polio and the possible causes and subsequent treatments. Maready delves deep into the history books to bring the story to life, blending personal accounts with their wider contexts.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Joanna
  • 04-16-19

A brilliant book!

The book shows the full story of the famous polio and how its picture presented in the official version is incomplete and very misleading. People have a tendency to jump into conclusions far too quickly and so do the scientist in particular. It very often comes at a way too much cost to the oblivious population who trust the greatest minds. The greatest minds do not like admit they were mistaken.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Katelyn boyle
  • 07-10-21

Fantastic for those who know little about Polio

Coming into this book, all I knew of Polio was the iron lungs and it was those images from the internet that wanted me to learn more.

This book so incredible from start to finish. Covering a vast amount of years from the 1800s to modern day.

The research that the author has done is astounding.

A perfect book for those who want to know the history of Polio, how it came about, theories of where it came from etc.

Must read!!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ricky
  • 12-01-22

If we learn anything from history …

…It’s that we don’t learn from history

This book gives the glaring hole in medical ethics and FDA policies the plug required.

Research 11/10

Information 11/10

Narration 11/10

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  • Frank Paul
  • 05-29-22

Stunning

The smallpox and polio story as it is currently told to the public is fundamentally untrue and forms the mythology of current vaccination. At least for polio this book tells an honest history. Do not read if you don’t want to be woken up.

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  • Shannon Wright
  • 09-16-21

very informative indeed.

If only this was mandatory reading how the world of medicine would change for the better.

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  • Rosemary Lee
  • 09-06-21

Correcting what we thought we knew ...

Turns out what actually happened isn't what we'd been told. Here's what actually did happen.

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  • Megan4
  • 04-26-20

Thoroughly interesting, kept me engaged for hours

Such an interesting book and investigation into Polio. Would have happily listened to it for a few more hours as the subject matter and details of Polio over the years, had me enthralled.