Smallpox Eraducation  Archives

More: Books, Narratives, Film, Presentations, etc.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, books are linked to their listings on These were current as of the release date of this site (30 Nov 2018).

Book-jacketArita I. Smallpox Eradication Saga: An Insider's View. Orient Blackswan, 2010

Arita, deputy chief and chief of WHO’s SEP, provides insights into the crucial events of the program, especially when as chief, he oversaw the verification of smallpox eradication. Arita also addresses remaining issues in the post-eradication era.

Book-jacketPeace Corps. The Peace Corps' Contribution to the Global Smallpox Eradication Program. Peace Corps, OSIRP, 2016. OPEN

This report captures the stories of the Peace Corps Volunteers who played a vital role in smallpox eradication. President Kennedy’s vision for the Peace Corps and what its mission could achieve are vividly brought to life.

Book-jacketHopkins DR. The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History. University of Chicago Press, 2002

The role of smallpox in human history from its origins 10,000 years ago through the ancient and modern worlds. Smallpox removed or incapacitated heads of state, halted or exacerbated wars, and devastated never-exposed populations.

Book-jacketGuinan M, Mather AD. Adventures of a Female Medical Detective. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016. PDF

Guinan, an EIS graduate, relates 12 stories of her life in medicine, including service as one of the very few female field officers in the SEP (India).

Book-jacketHenderson DA. Smallpox: The Death of a Disease — The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer. Prometheus Books, 2009

Henderson describes the obstacles to the SEP: bureaucracy, personnel and budget shortfalls, natural disasters, war, and refugees. He discusses the SEP's legacy and destruction of the variola virus.

Book-jacketBrilliant LB. The Management of Smallpox Eradication in India. U. of Michigan Press, 1985. PDF

Primarily for managers of health programs or students in the health sciences, this is a study of the management experience of smallpox eradication in India. The author has generously made the full text available.

Book-jacketRoy J. Smallpox Zero: An Illustrated History of Smallpox and Its Eradication. Emory Global Health Institute, 2010

A superb graphic novel detailing the origin, spread, and control of smallpox. Roy, son of CDC/SEP staffer Jean Roy, created the book for the 30th anniversary of the declaration of smallpox eradication.

Book-jacketSkelton JW Jr. Volunteering in Ethiopia: A Peace Corps Odyssey. Beaumont Books, 1991

Skelton describes his Peace Corps service in Ethiopia. Not originally assigned to the SEP, the author answered the urgent need for staff and became part of the critical corps of Peace Corps volunteers.

Book-jacketMarennikova SS, ed. How It Was: The Global Smallpox Eradication Programme in Reminiscences of its Participants. English translation. Novosibirsk, TSERIS, 2011. PDF

This essential and exciting book details the contributions of the then-USSR to smallpox eradication: high-quality vaccine; well-trained young epidemiologists; and the WHO Collaborating Center at the Moscow Research Institute for Viral Preparations.

Book-jacketFoege WH. House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox. U. of California Press, 2012

Foege describes his experiences with smallpox eradication. He portrays working in some of the world’s most impoverished countries and contributing to programs that change the world.

Book-jacketDavis C. Searching for Sitala Mata. Konjit Publications, 2015

Connie Davis served with the SEP in India during 1975-77 as one of a very few women (and the only black woman), confronting added difficulties of sexism and caste taboos. She recounts her adventures in rural West Bengal and Rajasthan.

Book-jacketBhattacharya S, Messenger S, eds. Global Eradication of Smallpox. Orient Blackswan, New Perspectives in South Asian History, 2010

A lecture series sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. Speakers included DA Henderson, Isao Arita, Ciro de Quadros, Joel Breman, Larry Brilliant, and Alan Schnur.

Written memoirs and extracts of contemporaneous letters. CDC's Global Health Chronicles has a growing collection of oral histories contributed by program staff and family.

Scabs in the refrigerator

The continuing saga of life with the SEP, as viewed from the home front. Excerpts of letters by Nana Henderson (DA's wife), plus a few by DA, to family in the US.

Installment 1: The build-up to the SEP, 1961-1966.

DA Henderson

1968: Montevideo to Kinshasa: if you can afford the time, plan to fly!

1968: One day in Prague. DA was scheduled to deliver a lecture in Prague on 21 August, 1968. He arrived on the 20th, and that night the Soviet tanks rolled in. This is the narrative he wrote on his return to Geneva.

1971: The situation in East Pakistan: July 1971. In the wake of the devastating Bhola cyclone of Nov 1970 and the (temporary) suppression of an East Pakistani uprising, DA was part of a WHO team providing an assessment of the health situation. On his departure from Dacca, he was asked by UN staff to provide a confidential assessment of the overall situation in East Pakistan to UN Headquarters.

Summary — Health Situation — East Pakistan
Observations — East Pakistan, Early July 1971

Nana Henderson's letter to relatives about this special assignment.

[Editor's note: The East Pakistani government-in-exile in Calcutta negotiated military support from India, leading to renewed war and the establishment of independent Bangladesh during Nov-Dec 1971.]

1973: Notes on visit to Bangladesh, 3-9 October 1973.

Observations on Bangladesh. (excepted from a letter to DA's parents. 11 Oct 1973.)

1976: Report 1 — Record of interview with a variolator, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. 25 Nov 1976

1979: Notes on a field trip to Ethiopia. In October 1979, Henderson, then Dean of the The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, accompanied members of the International Commission on a field trip.

Nicole Grasset

Nicole was the senior woman in the SEP, serving as SEARO smallpox adviser from 1970-75. This letter to DA was written just a couple of months before her death in 2009. She included a poem she had written a month after arrival, when Charles de Gaulle died, and an article on the women in the program, both workers and wives.

Trekking for Smallpox in Nepal

Jay Friedman recounts a 13-day trek with Dr. Benu Bahadur Karki and a surveillance team to investigate a 1973 outbreak in a remote mountain area. Jay, a CDC and WHO technical officer, worked in Mali before assignment to Nepal in 1972. He received a certificate of appreciation from the Prime Minister of Nepal, Tulsi Giri.

Peace Corps interview with Tim Miner

Tim Miner worked with the SEP in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) from 1972-73. After his stint in the Peace Corps, he became a WHO Technical Officer in Bangladesh in 1973-74. The interview was conducted on 17 Dec 2013.

Notes from Niger

Christopher D’Amanda MD. Account of an assessment of program vaccination efforts, 8-22 Jan 1969. Written in Ouagadougou in 1969; edited in Philadelphia 2006 for the 40th reunion of the West Africa Smallpox/Measles Program. See:

1969. Assessment of Phase I of the Smallpox Eradication/Measles Control Program of Niger. [Ralph Henderson. 8-22 Jan 1969]

See also CDC's Global Health Chronicles, which has a growing film collection.

Ciro de Quadros
Point of No Return

WHO film depicting the SEP's work in the field (14 minutes)

Ciro de Quadros in Ethiopia. Excerpt shown at the Sabin Institute's tribute to Ciro de Quadros (created by Bruce Weniger; 4 minutes)

Smallpox in Bangladesh: Dr. Michael Schwartz, 1975

[View on YouTube]

Mary Hilpertshauser, Shilin Zhou, Nic Goodman with Ninebar Creative for the Global Health Chronicles; 2013; 15 minutes

Photo-montage with music by Mushfiqul Alam chronicling Dr Schwartz' experience with the SEP in Bangladesh — field offices, WHO and national staff, field conditions, etc.

[Moscow Detective: Black Pox]. In Russian.

Alex Burykov; Published 19 May 2014; 43:55 minutes

In late 1959, decorated artist Alexei Kokorekin brought smallpox to Moscow from India. Only after his death did doctors diagnose smallpox, and his many contacts resulted in 46 cases and 3 deaths. The last 15 minutes of the film addresses the SEP. DA Henderson, Svetlana Marennikova, Viktor Federov, and others are interviewed. There are many still photos and short films taken in the field.

[Editor's note: This was a good film, located by Lev Khodakevich on YouTube, but the producer's account has been terminated. The film remains listed as part of the record.]

Once in Afghanistan
Once in Afghanistan

Jill Vickers & Jody Bergedick, Dirt Road Documentaries; 2002; 70 minutes

An all-female Peace Corps team worked in Afghanistan during 1969-70, joining male Afghani vaccinators in the Hindu Kush mountains and the southern desert. Many Afghani women and girls were forbidden to be seen, much less vaccinated, by men outside their families. Producers Jill Vickers (team member) and Jody Bergedick have contributed Once in Afghanistan, her documentary about the experience.

Download (temporarily unavailable):

  • Film trailer (2½ minutes)
  • Complete film (70 minutes)
  • Photo gallery (2½ minutes)
  • Additional footage (10 minutes)
  • Interview with Jill Vickers (3½ minutes)
  • Purchase the DVD
Why I Became a Public Health Physician

D.A. Henderson, MD, MPH.
A Short Video for The John Snow Society
Pump Handle Lecture Series 2013

[View on YouTube]

Randall Larsen Presents; 4 minutes

DA Henderson describes the surprising events that prompted his decision to become a public health physician. Produced for the John Snow Society to mark the bicentenary of John Snow’s birth.


Transcript of a June 1974 transatlantic press conference linking, by radio, the United Nations in New York (BBC correspondent Brian Saxton, NY Times science writer Larry Altman, and others) and Voice of America in Washington with DA Henderson at United Nations headquarters in Geneva. The press conference was organized by public information officers Joan Bush and Peter Ozorio of the WHO liaison office at the UN in New York. The primary topic is the implications of a large outbreak in Bihar State, India.

DA Henderson interviewed on NBC's Today Show by Barbara Walters, September 1975 (home audio recording).

Prince Mahidol Award, Bangkok, Thailand, Jan 2015

Presentations by DA Henderson, MD, MPH

Smallpox: Death of a Disease … Its eradication and legacy | PowerPoint | PDF
Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, 26 Jan 2015

The Threat of a Virus | PowerPoint | PDF
Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, 27 January 2015

Disease prevention and and Intervention. Smallpox

Course materials and references.

Presentations developed by the CDC and WHO for use in the training of smallpox response teams in the event of a bioterrorist attack. All course materials may be used without further permission. For the use of copyrighted materials beyond the training setting, please contact the publisher. Produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 2003.

Overview of Smallpox for Short Trainings | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 1 Mod 1 - History and Epidemiology of Smallpox | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 1 Mod 2 - Smallpox Disease and Management | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 1 Mod 3 - Differential Diagnosis of Smallpox | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 1 Mod 4 - Laboratory Diagnosis | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 1 Mod 5 - Smallpox Vaccine Overview | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 1 Mod 6 - Establishing an Adverse Events Monitoring System | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 2 Mod 1 - Pre-Event Planning Activities | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 2 Mod 3 - Post-Event Planning And Contact Tracing | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 2 Mod 4 - Vaccination Clinics | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 2 Mod 5 - Isolation and Quarantine | PowerPoint | PDF

Day 2 Mod 6 - Communications | PowerPoint | PDF

Yoruba Beliefs Regarding Smallpox Prevention and Folklore

Alhaji SO Fadeyi, Lagos City Council

Variola Virus in a 300-Year-Old Siberian Mummy

Biagini P, Thèves C, Gérault A et. al.

This article describes a distant lineage of the variola virus (the agent of smallpox) that was identified in a mummy found buried in the Siberian permafrost. Includes figure: Grave containing five mummies and phylogenetic analysis of virus detected in tissue samples obtained from mummy 2.

N Engl J Med 2012; 367:2057-9, 22 Nov 2012

Digressions Around a Medal

Dr G. Gramiccia, WHO

In the first year of his reign as Emperor of France, 1804, Napoleon issued a decree ordering the vaccination of all civilians. A medal was struck to commemorate that decree. Dr Gramiccia acquired a copy of that medal and researched its history. He uncovered, among other things, a poem written by Voltaire to the Duc of Orléans in 1756 on the occasion of the Duke's variolation of his child.

Origin of the Rotary Lancet

Dr Derrick Baxby, Dept. of Medical Microbiology, University of Liverpool, England.
Personal communication to DA Henderson, 16 May 1983.

Dr Baxby, a British authority on orthopoxviruses with a particular interest in cowpox and the history of vaccination, identified the introduction of the rotary lancet in 1871, and traces attempts to improve on it. Photocopies of original references from 1817, 1971, and 1902 are included.

Did smallpox shorten the Gettysburg Address?

Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address immediately before its delivery. He felt unwell, which may have contributed to its unusual brevity in an era of lengthy public addresses.

"As Abraham Lincoln rose to give the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, his face had a 'sad, mournful, almost haggard' expression ... Reciting the speech eloquently and without difficulty, no one – including Lincoln – realized at the time that he was in the early stages of a smallpox infection."

Matthew W. Lively, Abraham Lincoln, Smallpox, and the Gettysburg Address, Civil War Profiles, 15 Nov 2013

"That evening on the train to Washington, DC, he was febrile and weak, and suffered severe headaches. .... On the fourth day of the illness, a widespread scarlet rash appeared that soon became vesicular. By the tenth day, the lesions itched and peeled. The illness lasted three weeks."

Goldman AS, Schmalstieg FC Jr., Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Illness, J Med Biogr 2007 May 15(2): 104-10