A PROFRESSOR of Medicine from Rockhampton has retraced the history of polio across the centuries and around the globe in a brand new book.

Gareth Williams, 61, who teaches at Bristol University, has released Paralysed with Fear: the story of polio, a chronicle of the illness from the Antiquity to the 20th century and the bizarre research methods employed to eradicate it.

The father-of-two was inspired to write the accessible history of the disease, which still plagues Third World nations, back in Spring 2011.

"It's aimed at the general reader and covers the whole history, from the ancient Egyptians right through to the development of the vaccines and the front line of the final battle to defeat the disease," said Mr Williams, the former Edward Jenner Museum Trust chairman.

"Polio still clings on in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern Nigeria - all regions where, as you'll know, there is intense anti-Western feeling, which has turned this last stage into a real cliff-hanger."

Born in Glasgow in 1952, he grew up in Belfast. He won an open scholarship to read medicine at Cambridge and qualified as a doctor with honours in 1977.

In the volume published by Palgrave Macmillan, he takes the reader through some of the odd practices used to research the disease. These included transmitting polio from a dead boy directly into a monkey's brain.

Paralysed with Fear has already gathered praise from various medical publications and is on its way to beat Mr Williams's previous book, Angel of Death: the story of smallpox, which inspired by the life of Edward Jenner and shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize.

"The book has already been warmly reviewed," he added. "We're hoping that it will outstrip my previous book."

The royalties from Paralysed with Fear will go to the Edward Jenner Museum as do the profits from Angel of Death.

Mr Williams has published 200 scientific papers and edited or written over 20 medical books.

The Textbook of Diabetes and Handbook of Diabetes, both written with John Pickup, are leading texts in the field and have won several prizes, including BMA Book of The Year.

His less serious articles include a case report about Squirrel Nutkin and the use of chocolates to diagnose puberty and both list his two Border collies as co-authors.

Mr Williams will sign copies of Paralysed with Fear at Thornbury Bookshop on Thursday, July 25 (6pm).