One who saves another’s life is reckoned a hero. Donald Ainslie Henderson is a hero you never heard of, but he saved around 100 million (so far, and counting). He died August 19.
Henderson was responsible for eradicating smallpox, an extremely nasty disease. (If you believe in God, ask him some time why creation included such features.) When Henderson got this assignment from the World Health Organization in 1966, smallpox was still killing two million annually, and no one thought it could actually be eliminated. Except Henderson.
In fact, the WHO put an American in charge so the U.S. would be blamed for failure. They forgot our motto: “The difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a little longer.” In this case it took till 1977. That year the world’s last smallpox case was registered.
Henderson succeeded by doing what humans do: indefatigable hard work, research, figuring out the best methods, and a lot of cooperation. Hundreds of thousands of people ultimately pitched in to this massive effort.
Those who romanticize the natural world should remember that things like smallpox are part of it. Nature is not our friend. Our entire history is our battle against it. Our victories should be celebrated. This was a great one.
I am so proud to be a member of the human race.