37 years ago, vaccines drove smallpox into extinction. Polio is about to be on death's doorstep. Now the U.K. can say it has added one more name to its personal kill list — measles.

According to a new report from the World Health Organization, Denmark, Spain, and the United Kingdom in 2016 successfully eliminated the measles virus.

The secret behind this achievement is something simple: vaccines and herd immunity.

It's important to note that, as the WHO defines it, "elimination" doesn't mean "completely wiped out." There were still about 1,600 cases in the United Kingdom last year.

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In 1962, a chance encounter with Martin Luther King Jr. would transform the life of a young medical student named Larry Brilliant.

Larry Brilliant with an early Apple II computer. All images courtesy of HarperCollins.

Dr. Brilliant would go on to help eradicate smallpox, direct Google.org, help save 4 million people from blindness, and become one of the foremost experts in global pandemics.

But at 19 years old, Brilliant was holed up in his dorm room, subsisting on stale peanut candy and comic books, grief-stricken at the thought of losing his father to cancer.

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