Snell set a new mile (1609 m) record of 3 minutes 54.4 seconds at Whanganui’s Cook’s Gardens in late January. He followed this up with a new 800 m record a week later in Christchurch. He won gold in both the 1500 and 800 m at the 1964 Olympics, establishing himself as not only the greatest middle-distance runner of his generation but one of the greatest of all time.
In August New Zealand heart surgeon Brian Barratt-Boyes became only the second surgeon in the world to replace a heart valve, using one from a cadaver. The first such operation had been completed only a month earlier. At Auckland's Green Lane hospital Barratt-Boyes assembled a team that was at the forefront of heart surgery. In 1958 he performed New Zealand's first cardiopulmonary bypass using an imported Melrose Heart-Lung machine. He pioneered new surgical techniques involving the replacement of defective heart valves.
The spying and espionage which were a feature of the Cold War came to New Zealand in July. Two members of the Soviet Union’s Legation in New Zealand were expelled for spying. Attempts by Commercial Counsellor V.S. Andreyev and Second Secretary N.I. Shtykov to gain information from New Zealand citizens had been reported to the Security Intelligence Service. Their expulsion was the first of its kind in New Zealand. The New Zealand Herald reported that some MPs were ‘white-faced with shock’ when Prime Minister Holyoake announced the expulsion of the two men for attempting to bribe ‘New Zealanders with offers of gifts and money in return for secret information affecting defence and external relations.’
An outbreak of Paralytic Poliomyelitis (polio) in 1961 saw 214 people infected and seven die from the virus, which caused paralysis and permanent crippling. In response the Health Department launched a mass vaccination campaign in 1962. Nearly 80% of adults and 97% of school children received an oral vaccine. Outbreaks of polio had occurred on a regular basis since the 1930s. An effective vaccine developed by Jonas Salk was used in New Zealand for the first time in 1956. New Zealand was declared Polio Free in 2000.
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