The single entry on 29 October in my dad's 1949 diary indicates that I had contracted polio in one of its periodic epidemics. I was to spend the best part of my fourth year in Treloar's Orthopaedic Hospital, Alton. Polio was one of the great diseases of the industrial world in the ninetenth and twentieth centuries. Through advances in medical science it would shortly be eradicated from most societies. Too late for me, but I did benefit from the existence of our new National Health Service, created in 1948. I cannot imagine how my parents would have coped without this safety net in place.
While the ravages of polio, smallpox and tuberculosis are largely forgotten, other diseases better adapted to modern environments seek to take their place; they continually challenge the development of the medical world in what is conceivably a never-ending 'war'.