Happy Smallpox Eradication Day!

Before going further, briefly pause to ask yourself, how many people were killed by Smallpox?

The answer, is approximately 500 million.

On December 9th, 1979, Smallpox was eradicated. Celebrating Smallpox eradication day is a great reminder of human ingenuity (although, some celebrate it in May). It’s also a reminder that often people who do a tremendous amount of good in the world can go completely unrecognised.

Viktor Zhdanov may be a name you haven’t heard of. Until 2010, he didn’t have a Wikipedia page (and even now, he only has a few a paragraphs). However, arguably he has done the most good in the world. Viktor proposed and convinced the World Health Assembly to adopt a programme to eradicate smallpox, when at the time, it was a hugely contested issue.

Gordon Irlam explains:

“This might not seem like a great achievement now, but at the time it was. At the time no disease had ever been eradicated before, and people argued that doing so was therefore impossible. How could man eradicate disease? How could the bureaucratic problems of coordinating the actions of 100 or more countries in the world be overcome?”

The motion was passed by the World Health Assembly by only two votes.

We are beginning to recognise the achievements of many previously unacknowledged individuals who played a huge role, in one of humanities biggest successes. Today, The Future of Life Institute, is giving William Foege and Viktor Zhdanov the 2020 future of life award in honour of their achievements. At noon EST, Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, and Jennifer Douda will present the award. Details available here.