On This Day in History: April 26

(7PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Apr 26, 1954: Polio Vaccine Trials Begin

On this day in 1954, the Salk polio vaccine field trials, involving 1.8 million children, begin at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. Children in the United States, Canada and Finland participated in the trials, which used for the first time the now-standard double-blind method, whereby neither the patient nor attending doctor knew if the inoculation was the vaccine or a placebo. On April 12, 1955, researchers announced the vaccine was safe and effective and it quickly became a standard part of childhood immunizations in America. In the ensuing decades, polio vaccines would all but wipe out the highly contagious disease in the Western Hemisphere.

Woman dies in iron lung after outage


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A woman who spent nearly 60 years of her life in an iron lung after being diagnosed with polio as a child died Wednesday after a power failure shut down the machine that kept her breathing, her family said.

Dianne Odell, 61, had been confined to the 7-foot-long machine since she was stricken by polio at 3 years old.


Odell was afflicted with “bulbo-spinal” polio three years before a polio vaccine was discovered and largely stopped the spread of the crippling childhood disease.

She spent her life in the iron lung, cared for by her parents and other family members. Though confined inside the 750-pound apparatus, Odell managed to get a high school diploma, take college courses and write a children’s book.

The iron lung that she used was a cylindrical chamber with a seal at the neck. She lay on her back in the device with only her head exposed, and made eye contact with visitors using an angled mirror above her head. The lung worked by producing positive and negative pressure on the lungs that caused them to expand and contract so that she could breathe.

1607 An expedition of English colonists went ashore at Cape Henry, Va., to establish the first permanent English settlement in the Western Hemisphere. (They later settled at Jamestown.)

1785 Naturalist and artist John James Audubon was born in Haiti.

1812 Alfred Krupp, 4/26/1812 – 7/14/1887, German industrialist; developed and sold armaments

1822 Frederick Law Olmsted, 4/26/1822 – 8/28/1903, American landscape architect; designed Central Park in New York City

1865 Civil War: Johnston surrenders

1865 Civil War: Death of John Wilkes Booth

1886 Ma Rainey, 4/26/1886 – 12/22/1939, American singer; known as “the mother of the blues”

1889 Anita Loos, 4/26/1889 – 8/18/1981, American novelist and Hollywood screenwriter

1894 Rudolf Hess is born

1915 World War 1: Allies sign Treaty of London

1937 Planes from Nazi Germany raided the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

1954 Geneva Conference begins

In an effort to resolve several problems in Asia, including the war between the French and Vietnamese nationalists in Indochina, representatives from the world’s powers meet in Geneva. The conference marked a turning point in the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

1964 The African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.

1971 U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam at five-year low

1977 Studio 54 opens

1984 Reagan visits China

1986 Nuclear disaster at Chernobyl1945 Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, the head of France’s Vichy government during World War II, was arrested.

1989 Actress-comedian Lucille Ball died at age 77.

1998 Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera, a leading human rights activist 8in Guatemala, was bludgeoned to death two days after a report he’d compiled on atrocities during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war was made public.

2000 Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signed the nation’s first bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions.

Today’s Birthdays:

76 Carol Burnett, Actress, comedian

71 Duane Eddy, Rock musician

71 Maurice Williams, R&B singer

67 Bobby Rydell, Singer

66 Gary Wright, Rock singer

51 Giancarlo Esposito, Actor

49 Roger Taylor, Rock musician (Duran Duran)

48 Joan Chen, Actress

48 Chris Mars, Rock musician

47 Michael Damian, Actor, singer

46 Jet Li, Actor

45 Jimmy Stafford, Rock musician (Train)

44  Kevin James, Actor-comedian (“King of Queens”)

42 Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Actress (“Without a Trace”)

41 Joe Caverlee, Country musician (Yankee Grey)

39 T-Boz, Singer (TLC)

38 Jay DeMarcus, Country musician (Rascal Flats)

37 Michael Jeffers, Country musician (Pinmonkey)

33 Jose Pasillas, Rock musician (Incubus)


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  1. taoskier

    From the “US Troop Strength In S. Vietnam At Five Year Low”.

    The U.S. command in Saigon announces that the U.S. force level in Vietnam is 281,400 men, the lowest since July 1966.

    These figures were a direct result of President Richard Nixon’s new “Vietnamization” strategy, which he had announced at the Midway Conference in June 1969. This strategy was a three-pronged program to disengage the United States from the war in Vietnam. The program required that efforts be increased to improve the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces so that they could assume responsibility for the war against the North Vietnamese. Then, as the South Vietnamese became more capable, U.S. forces would be withdrawn from South Vietnam.

  2. Eddie C

    But that Guernica is this Guernica;

  3. ccasas

    but my uncle had polio in the 30’s and he’s still alive.  For that I’m VERRRRY thankful.  He’s one of my political heros.  He served in elected office for for 20+ years and my hero.

  4. Knucklehead

    Fabulous post  

  5. Translator

    my two very personal experiences with polio.  Parents that do not inoculate their children against horrible illnesses are, well, idiotic.

    Rex died, and Jimmy is to this day crippled.

    Warmest regards,


  6. Jack's Smirking Revenge

    if i’m confined to that device for the rest of my life, just kill me:

  7. TMC

    Is another devastating disease that is on the verge of being eradicated as was Smallpox. Most cases are now isolated to some remote areas in Africa and Asia where there has been political and religious opposition to the vaccine campaign.

    Global Polio Eradication Initiative

    Global Donors Take a New Approach to Putting an End to Polio

    Money will be used to wage war against this individual disease and it will simultaneously be put toward broader health goals – including expanding immunizations and providing clean drinking water – that will promote overall wellness in developing countries.

    However, the Wall Street Journal says that Bill Gates is not just concerned about funding. The centerpiece of the Gates Foundation is vaccination technology for a healthier tomorrow. These outbreaks indicate that even with multi-million dollar funds to share vaccines, political, religious and societal obstacles can hamper technological tools for good.

  8. TMC

    A copy hangs at the entrance to the Security Council Chambers.

  9. TMC

    The piece was moved for renovations and is now on loan at White Chapel Gallery in London

  10. dharmasyd

    …gave his infamous speech in 2003 about the dangers of Saddam Hussein and his WMDs, mobile biological war labs, etc., Picasso’s “Guernica” was removed from the hall outside the Security Council so that it wouldn’t be seen in any press coverage.

  11. TMC

    It was covered with a light blue cloth.  

  12. dharmasyd

    It accomplished the same thing — the no see ’ems!

  13. Jack's Smirking Revenge

    lest Congress has an emergency session on whether or not to allow my plug to be pulled.

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