The global smallpox program is generally presented as the brainchild of a handful of actors from the WHO headquarters in Geneva and at the agency's regional offices. This article attempts to present a more complex description of the drive to eradicate smallpox. Based on the example of India, a major focus of the campaign, it is argued that historians and public health officials should recognize the varying roles played by a much wider range of participants. Highlighting the significance of both Indian and international field officials, the author shows how bureaucrats and politicians at different levels of administration and society managed to strengthen-yet sometimes weaken-important program components. Centrally dictated strategies developed at WHO offices in Geneva and New Delhi, often in association with Indian federal authorities, were reinterpreted by many actors and sometimes changed beyond recognition.
smallpox eradication; India; World Health Organization; primary health care