/ life savers / uncelebrated /
A week ago, Maurice Hilleman died, aged 85. It is possibly a sign of current media morality that his death went practically unnoticed by the media, which prefer paying tribute to someone, say, who condemned literally hundreds of thousands to death by opposing (and I give but one example) contraception in the areas heaviest blighted by the AIDS epidemic, rather than a man whose work had saved - and still saves - millions of lives.
Who was Maurice Hilleman? The Telegraph obituary explains:
Maurice Hilleman, who died on Monday aged 85, developed vaccines against numerous once-common diseases including mumps, measles and rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis (A and B), pneumonia, meningitis and influenza.
Over a 40-year career, Hilleman developed some three dozen vaccines, probably saving more lives than any other scientist in the 20th century. In addition he researched the behaviour of viruses and analysed the genetic changes that occur when the influenza virus mutates, work which has enabled epidemiologists to track its development, give early warnings of pandemics and design vaccines in advance of outbreaks.
And here's Ralph Nader's take on M. Hilleman's unsung passing away:
There are many fascinating stories about this scientist. Yet almost no one knew about him, saw him on television, or read about him in newspapers or magazines. His anonymity, in comparison with Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jose Canseco, or an assortment of grade B actors, tells something about our society's and media's concepts of celebrity; much less of the heroic. This is not a frivolous observation.
Bringing the work of individuals who matter to so many people on the important issues of lives and livelihoods is a prime way of educating the citizenry about important matters. Media trumpeting of Madonna's latest escapades alerts and motivates the public quite differently than highlighting the frequent breakthroughs of a scientist like Dr. Hilleman. The former sells records and pulp magazines, the latter keeps the American people more knowledgeable about the critical perils that confront them if recognition and resources are not dedicated to their prevention...
Nader then goes on to stress the importance of adequately funding research for preventive medicine and the fight against infectious diseases.
I suspect that he'll be ignored - until it's too late.