Antibiotics and Automatic Transmissions

NPR ran a piece this morning on the founding in 1947 of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. This organization was in the forefront of civil rights for the disabled – the young spinal cord injured veterans would not be content with being warehoused like their predecessors.

Two developments combined to open up vast possibilities for paraplegics:

Antibiotics: prior to World War II and the development of antibiotics, most spinal cord injured people died quickly from urinary dysfunction, respiratory infection or bedsores. Now their life expectancy approaches that of the general population.

Automatic transmissions: Oldsmobile’s Hydra-Matic Drive was introduced in 1940. An automatic car could be fitted with hand controls, and a guy could go out on a date. Nothing could stop him now.

1947 advertisement for Hydra-Matic drive Oldsmobile

So, thanks to all the paralyzed vets who just wanted to have normal lives, and had to move mountains (and Congress) to get them. You’ve made the world better for all of us.


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