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Apr 24, 2018
I first encountered Stephen Hawking on the cover of the New York Times magazine. Inside, its pages told a story we all know today, but at the time it was a revelation: a Cambridge astrophysicist sought to solve the great mysteries of the universe, while he himself was trapped in a wheelchair by a progressive neurogenerative disease. I remember being struck by writer Timothy Ferris’s description of Professor’s Hawking’s shoes, their soles pristine, having never touched the ground. I tucked the article in my knapsack, and a few days later I finished reading it on my way to lunch with a literary agent.
In one of those remarkable moments of serendipity, during lunch I mentioned the article to agent Al Zuckerman, who told me he was already trying to reach Professor Hawking to see if he might be interested in writing a popular book. Some months later I received a submission from Al — a short manuscript and an invitation to participate in an auction for the publishing rights to A Brief History of Time.
At the time I was a senior editor at Bantam Books, which was an unlikely home for Prof Hawking’s book, given the number of prestigious, traditional publishing houses in the hunt to acquire it. However, Bantam’s experience selling popular paperbacks meant that its distribution went far beyond bookstores into drugstores, supermarkets, and airport shops. I sent a letter to Professor Hawking along with our financial offer, making the case that Bantam could get his book in the hands of the widest possible readership. It turned out that he was the rare academic who wanted just that — to bring his esoteric scholarly work to the attention of the masses. He chose us.
A few months later Stephen Hawking came to the US from Cambridge to give a lecture at Chicago’s Fermi Institute, so I arranged to meet him afterwards at the Holiday Inn, where Stephen was staying. As I turned into the parking lot, another car pulled up nearby. A young man got out, opened the trunk, unfolded a wheelchair, and placed a large battery underneath it. Then he opened the passenger door and gently scooped up a thin figure, and arranged him in the wheelchair. As I got out of my car he shouted, “Is that Peter Guzzardi? This is Professor Hawking,” just as the wheelchair spun a full 360 degrees and rocketed in the direction of the hotel lobby, with Stephen’s assistant and me in full pursuit.
When we convened in Prof Hawking’s room, I introduced myself, and asked politely if his flight from London had been comfortable. Stephen responded with a brief series of undecipherable sounds, which his assistant, a physics graduate student named Brian Whitt, translated. “Prof Hawking wants to know if you brought the contract.” So much for small talk. I produced the legal document, and Brian held it up, page by page, for Stephen to read, which he did at breathtaking speed. His body might be largely beyond his control, but his mind was obviously in hyper-drive.
Since Stephen didn’t yet have a publisher in the UK, the job of editing the English language edition of A Brief History of Time fell to me. I won’t pretend that it wasn’t a challenge. The manuscript was a slender but extremely dense 100 pages, describing the quest for the holy grail of science – one theory that could unite two separate fields that worked individually but wholly independent of each other. Particle physics explained the ghostly forces at work within atoms, whereas astrophysics made sense of massive effects like gravity that operated at the level of galaxies and star systems. As Stephen would so poetically put it, if scientists could come up a grand unified theory that explained both these fields we would truly understand everything: we would finally “know the mind of God.”
The rest, as they say, is history. A Brief History of Time sold out its first US printing in a matter of days, became a #1 bestseller around the world, was translated into more than 35 languages, and went on to sell more than 10 million copies. More importantly, it continues to make generations of readers aware of the ongoing quest to come up with the Grand Unified Theory of Everything. I’m honoured to have played a role in the publication of A Brief History of Time, and to have known, worked with, and befriended the brilliant, inspiring man who wrote it.
Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico
Apr 19, 2018
Not long ago I was chatting with David McClimon, seeking help with a 1953 photograph. David said, “Sorry I can’t help you with that – I was in an iron lung in 1953.”
His words brought it all back.
Today the scourge of polio seems all but forgotten, but it was a dreadful infectious illness that commonly caused muscle atrophy, until Dr. Jonas Salk created a vaccine to prevent its occurrence, in 1953.
Two years later the vaccine was perfected to the point that a massive vaccination program against this frightening disease was established throughout the Western world.
The greatest polio epidemic to hit Victoria was in 1953, the Victoria Daily Colonist recorded, with 80 patients treated at Royal Jubilee Hospital.
The news that four Sooke boys were hospitalized in the epidemic took the community by storm.
As these photos show, our local high school boys were Jim Baker, Bob Hodges, Dan Lajeunesse and David McClimon. Members of a Sooke team competing for the BC Juvenile Softball championships, they travelled to Vancouver together on the CPR ferry. It remains a puzzle how they had each fallen ill to the crippling disease one after the other.
Bob Hodges was treated in a rocking bed while David McClimon’s case required his confinement to an iron lung. Thankfully, each boy did recover use of their limbs, though not entirely without long-lasting effects.
Another name for poliomyelitis was “infantile paralysis,” though its victims were certainly not limited to youngsters.
One of the most famous victims diagnosed with polio, at age 39, was the remarkable Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, despite that he’d lost the use of his legs, went on to become a four-term elected president of the United States.
David McClimon, the most seriously affected, has allowed us to include an account he wrote years ago: “The summer of 1953 saw me in an iron lung – the first one, a terribly old contraption made mostly of wood. Later, I was upgraded to a more modern model … If I learned anything from my polio experience, it’s to avoid iron lungs if at all possible!
“Other things very much worth mentioning have to do with the compassion, help, and love that come from family, nurses, doctors and friends.
“My memories include nurses wrapping hot steaming cloths around my limbs, the crunching sound as doctors (despite my advice not to do so) cut a hole in my throat, my favourite uncle from the Yukon looking down at me with obvious concern, my favourite mom and dad gazing at their favourite (only) son with tears in their eyes, my two fine sisters so worried, the ceaseless noise from the lungs, the incessant drip from the damn intravenous and the stomach tube poked through my nose all the way to what must have been my toes.
“Finally, following all this, I can so easily recall my first real taste of food (a poached egg) after not able to eat for so long. And such memories must also include my joy in realizing as time went by that I was slowly getting back some control of my young body.”
Today David McClimon is a member of a post-polio support society. Experience has shown that many polio survivors find that, years later, they are affected by symptoms relating to the earlier illness.
While the breakthrough in preventing polio was made by Dr. Jonas Salk, we are reminded that it was Dr. Albert Sabin, who perfected an easy-to-take oral vaccine a few years later.
While this 1953 episode was the most dramatic in our area, we are aware of a number of others who suffered with polio as well, including Karl Linell, Ray Vowles, Karen Longland, and Adele Lewis. Lydia Van Ek was another youngster stricken.
The Van Eks were a Dutch family who had come to stay at the Woodside farm with the Wilfords after the war, and Pete Wilford recalls that his dad Phil made Lydia her first crutches. Lydia continues to require a leg brace all these years later.
The Sooke Rotary Club is part of an international effort to see that polio is eradicated in all corners of the globe, and we can only be thankful, that our younger generations today are so fortunate that, thanks to the vaccine, polio has not crossed their paths.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.
Polio victims Jim Baker, Bob Hodges, Dan Lajeunesse and David McClimon are shown along with their teammates. Standing: coach Buster Monk, Bob George, George Pedneault, Dennis Hird, Norm Essery, Pat George, and manager Wally Butler. Front: Sidney Morton, Gordie Eve, Paul Morton, Howard Monk. (Contributed by Sooke Region Museum)
Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico
A three-year-old became the first victim of polio in Balochistan for the year 2018.
Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico
Polio, postpolio, vacunas, erradicación, A three-year-old became the first victim of polio in Balochistan for the year 2018.
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