On this day 40 years ago, the last known natural case of smallpox was uncovered in Somalia. Once it was treated, it marked the final eradication of the disease and the successful end to a spectacular vaccination campaign. The English physician Edward Jenner had discovered the protective elixir 180 years earlier, but by 1958 two million people were still dying from smallpox every year. With vaccines from the USSR and the US, the World Health Organization undertook a global initiative to wipe out the disease, which also caused blisters, blindness, and deformity—and an Australian effort crossed the finish line in the Horn of Africa when it cured this man… (1977)
Ali Maow Maalin (above) was a Somali hospital cook and health worker and the last person known to be infected with naturally occurring Variola minor smallpox in the world. In October 1977, he was diagnosed with the disease that has been called The Greatest Killer, but made a full recovery. He was grateful that his friends and colleagues could be saved and took on a noble mission. He died of malaria while carrying out polio vaccinations after the reintroduction of that virus in Somalia in 2013.
More Good News on this Date:
- The Football Association, the oldest football association in the world, was formed in London (1863)
- Norway became independent from Sweden (1905)
- The P-51 Mustang made its maiden flight (1940)
- Jordan became the second Arab country, after Egypt, to sign a peace accord with Israel, which replaced 46 years of war (1994)
- Britain’s House of Lords voted to end the right of hereditary peers to vote in Britain’s upper chamber of Parliament (1999)
- Israel’s parliament approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank (2004)
Also, on this day in 1825, the Erie Canal opened a passageway from New York to the Great Lakes. The canal was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Erie in the Midwestern US. It took 8 years to construct the 36 locks which overcame a total elevation differential of about 565 feet (172 m). At a time when there were only pack animals and no steamships or railways, water became a cost-effective shipping method. (Click to enlarge the photo of Lockport)
And, Happy Birthday to Pat Sajak who hosted the game show Wheel of Fortune for over 20 years. Born in Chicago in 1946 to a Polish factory worker, he also developed a line of puzzle books.
Also, Hillary Rodham Clinton turns 70 today,