The recipients of the 2020 Future of Life Award, William Foege, Michael Burkinsky, and Victor Zhdanov Jr., join us on this episode of the FLI Podcast to recount the story of smallpox eradication, William Foege's and Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s involvement in the eradication, and their personal experience of the events.

 Topics discussed in this episode include:

-William Foege's and Victor Zhdanov's efforts to eradicate smallpox

-Personal stories from Foege's and Zhdanov's lives

-The history of smallpox

-Biological issues of the 21st century

You can find the page for this podcast here:

You can watch the 2020 Future of Life Award ceremony here:

You can learn more about the Future of Life Award here:


0:00 Intro

3:13 Part 1: How William Foege got into smallpox efforts and his work in Eastern Nigeria

14:12 The USSR's smallpox eradication efforts and convincing the WHO to take up global smallpox eradication

15:46 William Foege's efforts in and with the WHO for smallpox eradication

18:00 Surveillance and containment as a viable strategy

18:51 Implementing surveillance and containment throughout the world after success in West Africa

23:55 Wrapping up with eradication and dealing with the remnants of smallpox

25:35 Lab escape of smallpox in Birmingham England and the final natural case

27:20 Part 2: Introducing Michael Burkinsky as well as Victor and Katia Zhdanov

29:45 Introducing Victor Zhdanov Sr. and Alissa Zhdanov

31:05 Michael Burkinsky's memories of Victor Zhdanov Sr.

39:26 Victor Zhdanov Jr.'s memories of Victor Zhdanov Sr.

46:15 Mushrooms with meat

47:56 Stealing the family car

49:27 Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s efforts at the WHO for smallpox eradication

58:27 Exploring Alissa's book on Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s life

1:06:09 Michael's view that Victor Zhdanov Sr. is unsung, especially in Russia

1:07:18 Part 3: William Foege on the history of smallpox and biology in the 21st century

1:07:32 The origin and history of smallpox

1:10:34 The origin and history of variolation and the vaccine

1:20:15 West African "healers" who would create smallpox outbreaks

1:22:25 The safety of the smallpox vaccine vs. modern vaccines

1:29:40 A favorite story of William Foege's

1:35:50 Larry Brilliant and people central to the eradication efforts

1:37:33 Foege's perspective on modern pandemics and human bias

1:47:56 What should we do after COVID-19 ends

1:49:30 Bio-terrorism, existential risk, and synthetic pandemics

1:53:20 Foege's final thoughts on the importance of global health experts in politics

This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

Podden och tillhörande omslagsbild på den här sidan tillhör Future of Life Institute. Innehållet i podden är skapat av Future of Life Institute och inte av, eller tillsammans med, Poddtoppen.