World History 1954

About the history of the world in 1954, the pill and a polio vaccine is developed, the U.S. and Canada develop the DEW line, the Army-McCarthy hearings go on.



* Dr. Jonas Salk, 40, having just come up with an antipolio vaccine, began experimental inoculations in Pittsburgh. Mass inoculation of over a million Michigan children proved successful later that year, and by 1957 the polio rate in the U.S. had fallen 80%. The red vaccine, administered in 1-cc doses, consisted of polio virus deadened with formaldehyde so that it was just potent enough to stir the body to create antibodies before dying off.

* Oral contraceptives, developed by Dr. Gregory Pincus of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology at Shrewsbury, Mass., were first tried out on women volunteers.

* The U.S. and Canada agreed to construct the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, a string of radar stations, across 3,000 mi. of the Arctic Circle from Point Barrow to Baffin Island to detect the approach of hostile aircraft.

Apr. 22 The Army-McCarthy hearings began their five-week run on American TV. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), bent on flushing Communists, real or imagined, from federal payrolls, pulled out all the legal and ethical stops in an attempt to prove the existence of subversives in the army and the Defense Dept. His browbeating tactics, supported by flimsy evidence, did not play well to the camera, and the American public, previously polled as favoring McCarthy, quickly sourced on him. His colleagues in the Senate formally censured him, 67-22, in December. With this act, the man described by Dean Acheson as "one of the most unlovely characters in our political history since Aaron Burr" faded from view.

May 6 Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile at Oxford University with a four-lap time of 3:59.4. (See "The Champions Report on Their Biggest Moments," Chap. 23.)

May 8 With the Communist victory over French forces at Dien Bien Phu, France withdrew from Indochina.

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