Discover The Thrilling Story Of How Human Life Expectancy Doubled In The 20Th Century
The twentieth century was a time of great change, but perhaps most remarkable of all was the drastic increase in human life expectancy from around the world.
How did this happen? Extra Life Book Summary looks into it, exposing the complex and fascinating story underpinning this historic, unprecedented event.
From British noblewomen to rotten cantaloupe, you’ll learn about the many players in this narrative – including why milk caused such havoc in the nineteenth century and how a Swedish car manufacturer prioritised saving lives before profit – as well as uncover what bird dropping have to do with explosives.
With incredible insight from leading experts, you’ll discover just why our life expectancy has doubled over this past hundred years.
Vaccination Was An Earth-Shattering Idea, But It Didn’T Come Out Of Nowhere
Vaccination was and still is a revolutionary medical breakthrough, but there have been methods of immunization around for centuries.
Before Edward Jenner’s inoculation of a boy with cowpox to induce immunity against smallpox, variolation (or inoculation) had been practiced in Asia.
Variolation involved the deliberate infection of people with the actual virus.
It was Lady Mary Wortley Montague who brought this technique back to England, where Jenner was later inspired to develop his own method.
Inoculation and vaccination are distinct processes; vaccination principally utilizes similar but less dangerous diseases to incite resistance while inoculation requires direct contact with the virus itself.
Although sometimes unorthodox in method, they were both effective at raising levels of antibodies and protecting recipients from future exposure.
Today, thanks to both Jenner’s Vaccination technique and its unsung predecessor, the world has effectively conquered smallpox.
Vaccination was undoubtedly one of mankind’s greatest successes – yet it would not have been possible without hundreds of years of trial, error and experimentation which preceded it.
It Took Years Of Advocacy And Regulation To Make Milk Clean And Safe
For a long time, milk was very dangerous to drink.
In the 1840’s, in the city of New York, contaminated milk was responsible for over half of all deaths in infants and young children.
It had even been suggested that a glass of contaminated milk may have killed 12th US President Zachary Taylor.
So why was this seemingly harmless substance so hazardous? And what made it safe?
The answer lies in how it was produced.
Cows were kept extremely close by, as farmers knew that much of their milk would go bad during transportation.
The cows were often fed swill – an unsettling grain mash – resulting in ulcerated sores and eventually loss of tails.
It took decades, but with the help from Brooklyn journalist Frank Leslie, public opinion changed and this era of “swill milk” came to an end.
But making sure milk was safe required more than just better production methods; Spoilage still occurred due to disease-causing microbes found in dairy products.
The solution came with pasteurization – French scientist Louis Pasteur realized that high temperatures could eliminate any harmful bacteria – yet it wasn’t until political agitation and government regulations in the early 1900s that pasteurization became mandatory and commonplace across the country.
The Tragedy Of Thalidomide: How It Led To Tighter Drug Regulations And Evidence-Based Medicine
Throughout history, the exact standards for medicines have changed drastically.
In today’s world, it takes an immense amount of research and strict FDA regulations to make a medication safe and effective.
Before the 1960s, this wasn’t always the case – until Frances Oldham Kelsey began working with the FDA.
Even then, there was only three medical staff in total!
The key message here is that stringent regulations MUST be followed before any medications can reach the market.
This is especially true when considering dangerous substances like thalidomide – which causes nerve damage as well as deformities in infants when taken by pregnant women.
The immense tragedy of this situation gave Congress no choice but to strengthen safety measures on drugs.
Thanks to Kelsey’s caution, this over-the-counter medication was prevented from ever reaching US markets; and the effects of thalidomide echo to this day (causing 10 thousand children to be born with malformations worldwide).
This is why it’s so important that all drug manufacturers must now provide evidence for efficacy alongside evidence for safety, before releasing their products onto shelves.
Thanks to these astounding restrictions, public trust in medicine has been restored – ushering us into an age of safe and evidence-based medication.
The Story Of Penicillin: Cooperation And Eureka Moments In The Fight Against Bacterial Diseases
The traditional narrative surrounding the Penicillin Story is of a lone genius whose chance discovery changed the world for the better.
But in reality, the tale of this magical substance is one of cooperation, collaboration and a whole lot of hard work from brilliant minds.
Alexander Fleming did discover the antibiotic properties of penicillin in 1928 by chance, when he left a sample next to an open window – but his accomplishment set off a collaborative effort between scientists Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Florey who brought to light its true potential as a life-saving drug.
But even that wasn’t enough: Mary Hunt found the perfect strain of the Substance in a rotting cantaloupe after a long and exhaustive search – giving birth to most strains currently used to combat bacterial infections.
So, while Alexander Fleming’s contribution may have been responsible for prompting all these developments, it takes more than one person or idea to make an impact like penicillin has had on human lives.
It Took Pioneering Scientists And Engineers To Make Cars Safer And Save Lives
The key to making cars safer was not only a lot of smarts, but also enough pressure from the public to convince automakers to take action.
In the early and mid-twentieth century, a number of engineers and scientists were pushing for safety innovations for cars, such as seat belts, airbags, and less hazardous steering wheels.
But despite their warnings that car accidents had become the third most common cause of death in the United States, many automobile companies refused to make any changes in order to protect the public.
Then along came Volvo.
In 1955, they decided to take a stand and used an aeronautical engineer named Nils Bohlin who created the first ever three-point seat belt which proved capable of drastically reducing fatalities due to car crashes by 75%.
And even more impressively than that invention itself is what they did with it: instead of charging a hefty fee or keeping it exclusive to their own vehicles, they shrewdly chose to give away their patent free so that other automakers could replicate his work for all vehicles.
Thanks to Volvo’s kind gesture (and thankfully many others who followed suit) as well as people speaking up about the dangers of unsafe driving practices we now have far safer roads today – something we can all be thankful for!
How Nitrates And Factory Farming Ended World Hunger
Nitrates and factory farming have been a key factor in keeping billions of people around the world from going hungry.
Prior to the 20th century, different famines spread across Europe resulting in millions of lives lost due to starvation.
Thankfully, chemical nitrates and factory farming methods drastically reduced the cost of chicken and other forms of meat so that it was made affordable for almost everyone, regardless of economic background.
Nitrates can be used for two purposes – one being for explosives which had historically been sourced from bird droppings, and the other being to replenish agricultural land by synthesizing ammonium nitrate in a lab, just as Fritz Haber discovered to do in 1908.
This artificially created fertilizer aided in significantly increasing farm productivity while factory farming enabled farmers to keep chickens in small coops at a drastically reduced cost when compared to allowing them to roam free.
Sadly, this has also meant that these birds never get access to natural light but vitamin D is force fed via food products instead.
Despite its ethical issues, these modern farming methods have played an integral part in providing enough food resources for our rapidly growing population so that famine does not become an issue again like it did centuries ago.
The book, Extra Life by Max Allen, is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the incredible advances made in human life expectancy over the past century.
From vaccines and drug regulations to safe cars and healthy milk, to intensive agriculture and antibiotics – each one of these discoveries have contributed significantly to our increased longevity.
And behind each inventors stands pioneering forerunners who had amazing breakthroughs that helped make it all possible.
This book gives us an appreciation of the incredible work put into propelling us forward in medical research and everyday life, so that we can all benefit from longer life spans.